Chinese New Year Flying Lantern Lodged in Engine Delays Beijing Commercial Flight

With non-stop fireworks that will scare off even the most diehard spirit, Chinese New Year celebrations are definitely not for the faint of heart. And yet, as festive as they are, these annual customs can also pose a danger to public safety.

Last Saturday at a Beijing airport, a flying lantern released during the festival season ended up delaying a passenger airliner after it was found stuck in its engines.

China United Airlines confirmed Sunday that one of its flights had aborted its takeoff while taxiing on the runway after the grounds crew discovered the remnants of a flying lantern stuck in the airliner's left engine.

The airline said all passengers aboard flight KN5837 for Nanyang were transferred to another plane, after which the trip continued without any further incident.

The incident occurred at Beijing Nanyuan Airport, located directly south of the city. Primarily serving as a military facility, Nanyuan is also the main service location for China United Airlines in Beijing.

Authorities at Beijing Capital International Airport, the city's main airport located to its northeast, have reacted to the incident by initiating a public awareness campaign to remind locals not to release flying lanterns in its vicinity.

Violators of airport safe zone airspace, which usually extends some 20 kilometers away from the ends of airport runways in China, may be punished with fines up to RMB 100,000. A draft revision to China's criminal law introduced last month would add jail sentences of up to 15 days to violators of airport safe zones.

It is not known when the airliner initially made contact with the flying lantern. All the same, more flying lanterns are expected to be released into the skies above China this coming week as the country welcomes Lantern Festival this coming Saturday, February 11.

Also referred to as "sky lanterns," flying lanterns are essentially miniature hot air balloons that are commonly released during festivals throughout Asia.

This is not the first time that a sky lantern has caused trouble at a Chinese airport. During the Chinese New Year festival two years ago, a Beijing flight had to delay landing at a Hunan airport when three sky lanterns occupied the air space above the runway.

Sky lanterns have sinced been banned from Chinese cities such as Sanya, Xi'an, Nanjing, and Wuhan.

Besides distracting pilots and posing a threat to aircraft safety, sky lanterns have been blamed for causing fires, as had happened in Zhengzhou in 2009. As well, sky lanterns have been criticized for having an adverse impact upon the environment wherever it lands.

Whatever dangers sky lanterns may pose to Beijing, authorities have instead directed their efforts towards stopping residents from setting off fireworks. As a result, fewer Beijingers have bought fireworks, thereby improving Chinese New Year's Eve air quality to an AQI of 647.

More stories from this author here.

Images: onthehorizonline.com, lotour

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