Lantern causes Bangkok Airways flight cancellation

BANGKOK (AFP) - Bangkok Airways was forced to cancel a flight over the new year period after a traditional fire lantern was found stuck to the plane's engine, the airline said on Friday.

The Airbus A320 had flown into Chiang Mai airport in the country's north on Thursday night from Bangkok's Suvarnabhumi airport and was due to return to the capital.

As the plane taxied to its stand, lanterns were spotted floating over the airport and one was apparently sucked into the engine.

"After the aircraft parked at the gate, technicians found a lantern stuck to engine number two and the airline decided to cancel" Flight PG906, an airline statement said.

The incident comes at a time of heightened concern over fire lanterns - small paper balloons usually powered by a candle which are traditionally released by Thais during festivals and celebrations.

Scores of flights from Chiang Mai had to be cancelled in October during a festival because lanterns drifted into the airport's airspace and aviation chiefs have previously warned that lamps could be hazardous to aircraft.

New Year celebrations have seen no let up in stray lanterns despite the warnings.

"We have collected 200 lanterns inside Chiang Mai airport over New Year's Eve," Visutr Chantana, the airport's director, told AFP.

In the latest incident no damage was caused to the aircraft which was later flown without passengers back to Bangkok for further testing.

"Today our technicians checked the aircraft and found that the engine was fine and safe," Bangkok Airways said.

The incident comes after an AirAsia jet flying from Surabaya in Indonesia to Singapore crashed into the sea on Sunday during a storm with 162 people aboard.

On Tuesday another AirAsia jet - this time in the Philippines - skidded off the runway on arrival at a popular resort island, causing no injuries but shutting the small airport.

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