BBC Radio 2 – Chinese Lanterns and Fireworks Discussion

BBC Radio 2

Radio 2 Firework discussion

Jeremy Vine: Monday 7th February 2011 12.00pm-2.00pm

Jeremy Vine: “One of the UK’s busiest airports has issued a warning about Chinese Lanterns, bosses at Manchester Airport claim that setting them off beneath the flight paths could bring down a plane. That’s what they say.

The tissue paper lanterns can float up to a mile into the air when they are lit, its estimated that around 200,000 of them are released into Britain’s sky’s every year, and they are becoming increasingly popular at events like weddings. The warning has been issued to coincide with the two week festival marking Chinese New Year.

Austria and Germany have already outlawed the lanterns although there are no restrictions in force in Britain. Its not just airports that are worried about them, coastguards say they are often mistaken for distress flares, farmers want them banned because they can end up in cattle feed and they are also being blamed for a string of UFO sightings. But why do they pose such a danger for planes?

Joining me to explain is Russell Craig from Manchester Airport, Russell good afternoon; tell us what the problem is”.

Russell Craig: “Well the Chinese lanterns, they are made of tissue paper, but they do have, even the ones that have bamboo inside, they do have some small metal parts, and I think of particular concern to us was the fact that on New Years Eve, not the Chinese New Year, but 31st of December we found the remnants of 60 of them on the airfield here at Manchester.

We have a particular geographical problem here in that the two ends of our two runways are very, very densely populated areas. Chinese lanterns are increasingly popular around New Year; we know that they are used around Chinese New Year, not necessarily as part of the customs, and also around Bonfire Night. So it felt like an opportune moment to say look, we don’t want to scare people but if your going to let Chinese lanterns off, could we just ask you to just think twice”.

Jeremy Vine: “Are people really launching them from inside quite densely populated areas where there are rows of houses and so on?”

Russell Craig: Well the fact that there were 60 on the airfield, over, like I say, the 31st December through to the 1st January, tells you that yes they are. They are not being done with any malicious intent, you know, people find them very nice to look at and as you say they are becoming increasingly popular at weddings and birthdays. But, the problem with them is of course, with these metal parts, aircraft engines; robust and they’re tested to destruction, and we’ve all seen the footage I’m sure, of frozen turkeys being fired into engines and they work perfectly so weren’t not saying this will definitely cause an incident, were just saying, we have a duty to manage and mitigate risk so its only right that we just tell people our concerns”.

Jeremy Vine: “It seem odd that that no other airport has done this yet”

Russell Craig: Well I don’t know why, maybe there’s some airports, for example, we also own East Midlands airport and that’s a completely different set up there where you don’t have densely populated areas at either end of the runway, we didn’t feel the need to issue a warning there. You know, you are trying to strike a balance when you run an airport, between not spoiling people’s fun and enjoyment of things like fireworks and Chinese lanterns and so on, but also respecting the fact that you also have a duty for safety as well”.

Jeremy Vine: “How do they compare to fireworks, because obviously you haven’t asked for people to stop throwing them into the sky. That must be quite a regular occurrence?”

Russell Craig: “We do, we do around Bonfire Night, we do issue guidance and actually fireworks are much, much easier to manage because generally they go kind of, well straight into the air whereas Chinese lanterns are completely unguided and with the right wind direction, a strong gust of wind, they can take them up to two miles and even further. So with fireworks, we are able to publish a kind of map of the airport and say if you live in these red zones then that’s the time to contact us and in fact with fireworks on Bonfire Night we actually pause the airports operations for 20 minutes to allow people who live in those areas to enjoy the firework displays in an organised managed way”.

Jeremy Vine: “Thank you very much for indeed joining us, Russell Craig spokesman for Manchester Airport. They’re saying to people please don’t launch Chinese lanterns.

They’re not against the law but it’s just amazing to think that people are launching them inside cities and heavily populated areas”.

What’s your view on Chinese lanterns and this interview? Let us know what you think.

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