The Directorate General of Civil Aviation warned on Friday that swarms of locusts could pose serious danger to flights during take off and landing. The Centre restarted a limited number of flights from May 25, after suspending domestic and international aviation for over two months to limit the spread of the coronavirus.

“Generally locust are found at lower levels and therefore pose a threat to aircraft in the critical landing and take off phase of the flight,” the aviation regulator told airlines in its circular. “Almost all air intake ports of the aircraft will be prone to ingestion in large numbers, if the aircraft flies through a swarm.”

The circular said that though a single locust is small in size, the pilot’s forward vision can be impeded if large numbers of the insects land on the windshield. “This is a grave concern during landing, taxi and takeoff phase,” it said. “Use of wipers may sometimes spread the smear even more...”

The circular said air traffic controllers, when aware of the presence of locusts nearby, should immediately inform all arriving and departing flights. “[Locusts] Being a day time phenomenon, the pilot is also expected to keep a keen eye for any such observations,” the circular added.

The aviation regulator urged airlines to not fly flights during a locust invasion as far as possible. “The only favourable aspect is that locust do not fly at night, thus providing better opportunity to sight and avoid them,” the note said.

This year has seen the worst locust attack in India in decades as they are spearing into Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab after destroying crops in Rajasthan, Gujarat, Madhya Pradesh and Haryana. On May 27, the Ministry of Agriculture said control operations have been stepped up and drones will be deployed for aerial spraying of insecticides in the affected states. Locust containment measures and sprinkling operations have been conducted in 303 locations spread over more than 47,000 hectares.

The government has also placed an order for 60 spraying machines from United Kingdom-based company Micron. Meanwhile, Uttar Pradesh and Punjab have been put on high alert for the infestation.

UN officer said India had been warned of locust attacks

Meanwhile, Keith Cressman, senior locust forecasting officer of the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, said on Friday that the movement of swarms of locusts was expected since late last year, and the Indian government had been warned about this, News18 reported. He said locust attacks came earlier than expected this year.

“Last year there was very good breeding in India, Iran and Pakistan,” Cressman said. “At the moment, populations are moving out of spring breeding areas, from southwest Pakistan and Iran. Normally, they invade at the end of June. But, they are here a month in advance due to drier conditions in Iran and Southwest Pakistan.”

Cressman said India had no reason to panic since the swarms will not invade all of its states. This is because locusts do not like regions that are not dry, and the monsoon is about to set in. “They are waiting for the onset of monsoon in Rajasthan,” he said. “They will be in a holding pattern until monsoon and they will move back to Rajasthan with the wind directions. Since they cannot fly against the winds, there are low chances that they will move into southern India.”