Imphal’s Bir Tikendrajit International Airport was compelled to halt flight operations when Unidentified Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs), commonly known as drones, were detected in the airspace. This incident occurred around 2.30 pm on Sunday.
As a result of the drone sighting, several flights to and from Imphal were delayed.
Additionally, incoming aircrafts that were due to enter Imphal airspace were redirected to alternative airports.
The Indian Air Force Eastern Command at Shillong was informed of the development, the official said.
Manipur shares an international border with Myanmar to its east.
In this regard, the Eastern Command of the Indian Air Force said that it activated its Air Defence response mechanism.
In a post on X, Eastern Command said, ‘IAF activated its Air Defence response mechanism based on visual inputs from Imphal airport. The small object was not seen thereafter.’
The arrival of Indigo flight, Kolkata to Imphal was reportedly instructed to hold overhead till clearance is taken from security agencies, CISF and SP Imphal West. Moreover, a flight with full passengers was reportedly held overhead for 25 minutes and thereafter diverted to Guwahati.
Another Indigo flight from Kolkata was diverted from Guwahati while an inbound flight from Delhi was diverted to Kolkata.
Three flights in Imphal airport sat for over three hours and two inbound flights took a diversion towards Kolkata after the air traffic controllers reported the unidentified flying object near the runway.
According to the technical staff of the airport, the air traffic control and people in and around flight saw the drones around 2 pm, then the three flights were told not to take off.
However, three delayed flights took off for Delhi, Patna and Guwahati at around 6 pm. One Indigo flight was to fly at Bangalore and two flights were to fly to Delhi and Kolkata respectively.
Airport director, Chipemmi Keishing of AAI, Imphal International Airport in a statement confirmed that due to the sighting of an Unidentified Flying Object within the controlled airspace, two flights have been diverted and three departing flights have been delayed.
The flight operations commenced after receipt of clearance from competent authority, it stated.
It should be mentioned that some passengers rescheduled their tickets but some took off. Two flights to Delhi and Kolkata took off with all the passengers, while some passengers who were flying to Tripura on the Indigo flight to Bangalore got off and left behind.
“We notice a drone-like object obstructing the flight airways. My flight was scheduled for Guwahati and was already inside the Indigo flight. At first, I did not know why the flight was not taking off for about half-an-hour and remained seated. All the passengers started enquiring why the flight was not taking off and there was some confusion and noise inside.
The air hostess intervened and asked to remain calm and informed about the object. All were in frustration and tried to see the object,” said a passenger identified as K Joyson.
“My departure timing was 2.20 pm and from 2 pm, all passengers were sitting inside the flight. Until 3 pm, the flight was not taking off. So, we asked an air hostess and she informed us about the unidentified objects and that we cannot fly until clearance from authority. Inside the plane, they gave us some light refreshments,” M Dingku Singh said. He added that his ticket has been rescheduled for Monday at the same time.
Politician cum actor, RK Kaiku while speaking to the media said that his daughter was scheduled to leave for Delhi and had been inside the plane since 2 pm. He came back to the airport for his daughter, worried and was waiting to see if her flight would take off or not, he said.
He said that the state government and airport security should take it seriously. “It is an international airport, and flying drones in this area is a huge threat. It should not be taken lightly and steps should be taken up, he added.
Officials had been unable to determine what the object was. An inquiry is underway.