Locust threat: DGCA issues guidelines for safe flight

Locust threat: DGCA issues guidelines for safe flight

  • Flying through a swarm can cause problems for aircraft at the time of landing and takeoff
  • The air inlets of an aircraft, including engines, air conditioning packs, etc, prone to being damaged by the insects, says the DGCA circular

Hyderabad: Citing that the weather satellites and other satellites monitoring the environment cannot detect locust swarms, the Director-General of Civil Aviation has issued a new set of operational guidelines for the safety of airlines.

It said that that as the locusts are found at lower levels they pose a threat to aircraft in the critical landing and take-off phase of the flight.

Because, "almost all air intake ports of the aircraft like engine inlet, air-conditioning pack inlet etc will be prone to ingestion in large numbers, if the aircraft flies through a swarm," it said.

Further, the pitot and static sources can also get partially or fully blocked, while flying through locust swarms. In turn, the blocked pitot and static sources lead to erroneous instrument indications, especially unreliable airspeed and altimeter indications.

The DGCA said that though an individual locust is small in size, the impact of large numbers on the windshield is known to have impacted the pilot forward vision. And, it poses a grave concern during landing, taxi and takes off phase. Use of wipers at times may cause the smear to spread, even more.

Hence, the pilots are asked to consider this aspect before opting to use wipers to remove locust from the windshield. Large swarms can also obstruct visual ground contact over a large area, therefore flights under Visual Flight Rules also need to be aware of their presence.

Further, air traffic controllers (ATCs), when aware of locust presence in the vicinity of their aerodrome, the guidelines asked them to share the information with all arriving and departing flights.

Being a day time phenomenon, the pilot is also expected to keep a keen eye for any such observations. "All pilots are also required to share information of locust swarm location if they have sighted any during the flight." The only favourable aspect is that locust does not fly at night, thus, it provides a better opportunity to sight and avoid them.

Post a flight through a locust swarm appropriate entry in the pilots defect log should be made giving details of any malfunction experienced and the engineering crew should conduct checks as mandated before the release of aircraft for next flight.

Also, the ground handling agencies should be aware that Locust swarms pose risk to parked aircraft, where possible air inlets and probes should be covered.

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