Unidentified Flying Object Near Imphal Airport: What Exactly Happened

The unidentified flying object sighting affected operations in Imphal (Representational)

Imphal/New Delhi:

The controlled airspace of Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Manipur’s capital Imphal was closed for commercial flight operations today for nearly three hours after an unidentified flying object was seen.

Here are the details of what happened, according to sources in the Airports Authority of India (AAI).

At 2.30 pm, the Imphal air traffic control (ATC) got a call from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) control room that an unidentified flying object was seen just above the ATC tower.

The object was visible from the terrace of the ATC tower; people on the ground including airline and CISF personnel also saw it. The object’s colour was white.

It flew over the terminal building, moved southwards above the ATC tower and remained stationary there for some time. Then it moved southwest of the runway, where it remained till 4.05 pm before it disappeared. The sunset was at 4.26 pm.

Kolkata-Imphal IndiGo Flight

In the meantime, an IndiGo A320 flying from Kolkata to Imphal with 173 passengers on board was told to keep a holding pattern until the ATC got clearance from the security agencies – CISF, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Indian Air Force (IAF) and the Superintendent of Police (Imphal West). The IndiGo flight remained in a holding pattern for 25 minutes, after which it was diverted to Guwahati in Assam at 3.03 pm.

Delhi-Imphal IndiGo Flight

Another IndiGo A320 flying from Delhi to Imphal with 183 passengers on board was diverted to Kolkata at 4.05 pm.

The ATC in Imphal and the airport director alerted the Delhi watch supervisory officer (WSO), Guwahati WSO, Kolkata WSO, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Guwahati, Indian Air Force (IAF) in Silchar, the IAF’s Eastern Air Command in Shillong, the IAF military liaison unit in Kolkata; Manipur Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, Home Commissioner, BCAS regional director, Superintendent of Police (Imphal West), and District Commissioner (Imphal West).

Aircraft On Apron

Three flights – two Air India and an Indigo aircraft – were still parked on the apron while the airspace was closed.

All airport operations were kept on hold till further notice and a NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) of airspace closure was flashed. A NOTAM contains information about the condition or change in any aeronautical facility, service, procedure or hazard, the timely knowledge of which is essential to personnel concerned with flight operations.

At 3.55 pm, the Eastern Air Command began scanning the Imphal airspace for threats till 5.35 pm. Subsequently, the Eastern Air Command in Shillong allowed Imphal airport to resume normal operations.

“IAF activated its air defence response mechanism based on visual inputs from Imphal airport. The small object was not seen thereafter,” the Eastern Air Command said in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter.

Thereafter, the BCAS regional director in Imphal, the DGCA director of air safety in Kolkata and the Joint Action Centre committee comprising Manipur officials gave the go-ahead at 5.45 pm.

The Imphal ATC resumed charge of the airspace and aircraft operations restarted at 5.50 pm. The NOTAM was subsequently cancelled.

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