The decision to suspend the show came hours following multiple complaints by airline pilots on Monday evening about the laser lights intruding their cockpits while they were approaching Kolkata airport to land. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) mandates an 18.5 km radius exclusion zone for laser lights around airports to prevent pilots getting blinded by laser beams during the crucial landing phase. The puja pandal is barely 8.5km from the runway and next to the aircraft approach funnel.
The organisers of the puja helmed by Bengal fire minister Sujit Bose, though, claimed they had voluntarily shut the laser display on the 145-ft high pandal to control the crowds.
“We decided to suspend the laser show as revellers were refusing to move on and were recording it on their cellphones. As a result, crowd control was becoming a challenge,” said Dibyendu Goswami, the chief coordinator of the puja committee.
Sources in the airport said pilots of at least four flights had complained of laser lights that can momentarily blind the pilots’ vision in the cockpit. While three complaints were made by pilots over the VHF radio set to the air traffic control that was duly reported to the Airport Operations Command Centre, another pilot was so angry about the laser that he made a written complaint to the Airports Authority of India.
“When they complained of laser beams, the flights were at an altitude of 1,500-1,800 feet and descending fast to touch down in less than 5 minutes. Any intrusion at this juncture is not only irritating, it is hazardous as well,” explained an official.
Sources said the state administration, including top officials, were informed about the problem that flights were facing as a result of the high-decibel laser show.
In the past, pilots have complained of laser shows at Kali Puja or even functions held on the city’s northern and eastern fringes. Kolkata airport authorities have even complained to the police about the issue. Airport officials said they would have done so even this time had the organisers not stopped the show.