Illegal drones, bad weather cause flight delays at Changi

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that approximately 15 departures and three arrivals were delayed, and another seven flights were diverted, due to bad weather and unauthorised drone activities.
The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore said that approximately 15 departures and three arrivals were delayed, and another seven flights were diverted, due to bad weather and unauthorised drone activities.ST PHOTO: JASON QUAH

Unauthorised drones caused flight delays and disruptions at Changi Airport last night, just days after a previous incident saw 37 flights delayed.

The Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) said this morning in response to media queries that approximately 15 departures and three arrivals were delayed, and another seven flights were diverted, due to bad weather and unauthorised drone activities.

"As a precautionary measure, arrival and departure flights were carefully regulated for short periods of time between 2007 hours and 2107 hours," it said in a statement shortly after midnight.

The Straits Times had reported last night that illegal drones caused several flights to be delayed or diverted, with Singapore Airlines, Garuda and AirAsia among the carriers affected. More than one drone was also sighted, with the drones reportedly not of recreational make, ST understands.

CAAS said investigations are ongoing. "Members of the public are reminded that the authorities take a serious view of errant operations of unmanned aircraft which may pose threats to aviation or endanger the personal safety of others, and will not hesitate to take enforcement action against those who contravene regulations," it added. "Offenders could face a fine not exceeding $20,000 or imprisonment for a term of up to 12 months, or both."

ST had reported that flight arrival and departure boards at Changi Airport's terminals began reflecting delays in arrival and departure times from around 9pm. Social media users also reported delays, with one Twitter user Hana complaining of being stuck in Pekanbaru, Indonesia, due to a drone sighting at Changi. Another user, GrudgeGriefer, tweeted that the flight his or her mother and brother were to arrive on was delayed.

Flight-tracking site Flight Aware showed Batik Air Flight ID7157 heading from Jakarta towards Singapore and then going into a holding pattern south of Batam, before it diverted west towards Pekanbaru, where it landed at 9.07pm local time (10.07pm Singapore time).


A screengrab of flight tracking site Flight Aware at around 11.30pm on June 24, 2019. PHOTO: SCREENGRAB FROM FLIGHTAWARE.COM

 
 
 
 

It took off again over an hour later, and landed at Changi at 12.19am this morning.

The site also showed Garuda Indonesia Flight GA846 - which also operates as Singapore Airlines codeshare Flight SQ5566 - bound for Singapore being diverted to land at Batam's Hang Nadim Airport at 8.34pm local time (9.34pm Singapore time).

That flight landed at Changi Airport at 11.18pm, more than two hours after its original arrival time of 9.05pm.

AirAsia Flight AK1729 from Penang that was scheduled to land at Changi at 9pm was diverted to Johor's Senai Airport where it landed at 9.25pm. AirAsia Flight AK1727 from Penang that was scheduled to land at Changi at 10pm was also diverted to Senai. Both flights eventually landed at Changi around midnight.

Last night's disruptions were the second incident involving drones at Changi Airport in less than a week. Unauthorised drones sighted on June 18 had delayed 37 flights and affected operations of one of Changi's two runways for up to 10 hours, until the morning of June 19.

Under the Unmanned Aircraft (Public Safety and Security) Act, the flying of drones within 5km of airports or military airbases, or at altitudes above 200ft, without a permit is an offence.

Drones have disrupted civil aviation near other major airports around the world.

More than 1,000 flights were forced to be diverted or cancelled last December after drones were spotted around London's Gatwick Airport, with 140,000 people affected. Drones also caused severe delays at London's Heathrow Airport in January.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 25, 2019, with the headline 'Illegal drones, bad weather cause flight delays at Changi'. Print Edition | Subscribe