Recognising the highest ever locust activity in the last 20 years, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) issued a circular Friday “strongly advising” flights to avoid flying through any known locust swarms.
According to the circular, flying through a swarm can cause problems for aircraft at the time of landing and takeoff with all the air inlets of an aircraft, including engines, air conditioning packs, etc, prone to being damaged by the insects. They are hazardous to an aircraft’s systems even when it is parked.
“While damage to agriculture and crops by locust swarms is well known, the objective of this operations circular is to get aviation fraternity aware of the risks posed by locust swarms and the need to avoid flying through a swarm,” the DGCA noted.
Furthermore, flying through locust swarms could also cause the plane’s windshield to be covered with the insects, reducing a pilot’s ability to land using visual approach.
“Use of wipers at times may cause the smear to spread even more; pilots should consider this aspect prior to opting to use wipers to remove locusts from the windshield,” the circular said.
In January this year, an Ethiopian Airlines jet was forced to make an emergency landing after it flew into a swarm of locusts that were smeared across the windshield.
Other instruments of an aircraft such as pitot tubes can also be affected by locusts, even when the planes are parked. This can lead to erroneous airspeed and altitude readings for the aircraft’s flight computer, causing it to misbehave.
“Post a flight through a locust swarm, appropriate entry in the pilot’s defect log should be made giving details of any malfunction experienced and the engineering crew should conduct checks as mandated prior to release of the aircraft for next flight,” the DGCA circular noted.
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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