Pilot’s close call with rocket, sparks aviation safety debate

Image courtesy of Pilot Notebook Facebook Page

A Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF) pilot reported a close encounter with a firework rocket that soared almost 8,000 feet, forcing evasive manoeuvres to avoid a potential disaster. The incident, shared on the Facebook page Unseen Records of Pilots has sparked a wave of public concern over aviation safety.

The pilot detailed the alarming event, which occurred after taking off from Ubon Ratchathani Airport. While ascending through 5,000 feet (1,500 metres), the pilot noticed a rocket-like object falling from the sky, trailing smoke.

Recognising it as a traditional Isaan rocket, typically launched during local festivals, the pilot immediately alerted air traffic control to warn other aircraft in the vicinity.

The pilot’s account highlighted the dangers posed by these rockets, which are often launched without proper authorisation.

“Besides the northern sky lanterns, the northeastern region also has rockets that pose a significant threat to aviation.”

The initial post described the pilot’s actions and the subsequent reaction from air traffic control. Given the rocket’s altitude and proximity to the aircraft, the pilot had to manoeuvre carefully to avoid collision.

Close call

An aircraft from the RTAF, following closely behind, also encountered the rocket and had to alter its course.

During the climb, the pilot spotted the descending rocket and confirmed its identity based on pre-flight NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) briefings, which indicated rocket launches in various northeastern provinces.

The pilot stressed the importance of notifying air traffic control to ensure the safety of subsequent flights.

“I reported to air traffic control immediately so that they could alert other aircraft. The Air Force plane following me was also warned and took evasive action.”

Photos accompanying the post showed the rocket’s smoke trail and the contrail of a high-altitude aircraft. The pilot explained that the images, though they appeared distant, depicted the rocket within 200-300 metres of his aircraft, a dangerous proximity.

The pilot emphasised that proper procedures involve notifying authorities in advance of rocket launches, enabling air traffic control to issue NOTAMs and ensure pilots avoid hazardous areas.

Unforeseen dangers

The post criticised individuals who launch rockets without permission, creating risks for all, before concluding with a call for greater awareness of safety, reported Khaosod.

“I understand it’s a tradition. But we must consider public safety and follow regulations. It’s not about blaming any group; it’s about preventing accidents. Imagine if your loved ones were on a flight affected by such an incident.”

His message resonated with many, prompting discussions on balancing cultural practices with modern safety standards. The incident underscored the dangers posed by rocket launches, prompting the debate for stricter enforcement of rocket launches to prevent further challenges to aviation safety in the future.

Thailand News

Nattapong Westwood

Nattapong Westwood is a Bangkok-born writer who is half Thai and half Aussie. He studied in an international school in Bangkok and then pursued journalism studies in Melbourne. Nattapong began his career as a freelance writer before joining Thaiger. His passion for news writing fuels his dedication to the craft, as he consistently strives to deliver engaging content to his audience.

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