Fireworks and Aviation Safety
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Explosive pyrotechnic devices used for aesthetic and entertainment purposes.
Firework displays can vary from a small garden event to large organised public displays. A feature of fireworks displays is that solid objects are physically launched into the air to create the full visual effect.
Large firework displays are common at major public events, national celebrations, and holidays.
In most states it is illegal to carry fireworks onboard an aircraft - see the separate article on Dangerous Air Cargo. This article focuses on the threat to aviation posed by firework displays.
The Fireworks Calendar
Firework displays are common at the following times and places:
- July: Canada 1 July - Canada Day.
- July: United States 4 July - Independence Day.
- August: Singapore National Day 9 August - Singapore Fireworks Celebrations.
- August: Throughout August in Japan - hanabi taikai.
- October: The days around 31 October - Halloween - to some extent in the UK but more widely in Ireland, USA and Canada.
- October - December: Celebration of the Hindu festival of Diwali in India and many places with a large Hindu community.
- November: The days around 5 November in England and Scotland - Guy Fawkes Night.
- December: 31 December throughout much of the world - New Year's Eve.
Fireworks Displays - the Threat to Aircraft Safety?
Many fireworks associated with large-scale events can dispense canisters several hundred feet into the air. The risk of collision with an aircraft is small and, for most types of operation, is only significant in the take-off and landing phases of flight. it is unlikely that a firework would cause significant damage to a commercial jet airliner struck by a firework. Nevertheless, fireworks have the potential to distract and confuse aircrews if they encounter fireworks at low altitudes, specifically on approach to landing.
Most reports referring to fireworks involve general aviation pilots who, typically have been startled and/or lost their night vision and situational awareness.
The UK CAA's CAP 736 requires organisers of firework displays to notify them if the display is to take place within 3 nm of an aerodrome, or within 10 nm of an aerodrome along the track of the extended runway centreline and 500 m either side of the centreline. The UK CAA may place restrictions on the display and may issue a Notice To Airmen warning pilots of the location and times of the fireworks display.
Transport Canada (CARs 2012-1, Operating and Flight Rules) legislate that "No person shall fly a model aircraft or a kite or launch a model rocket or a rocket of a type used in a fireworks display into cloud or in a manner that is or is likely to be hazardous to aviation safety."
In the United States, to gain a permit for a public fireworks display, organisers have to provide "documentation that the Federal Aviation Administration (Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)) has been notified and approved the display. Any conditions imposed by the FAA must be complied with in order to receive the display permit."