In a bizarre incident at Imphal airport, three flights were stranded on the tarmac for over three hours, and two incoming flights were diverted to Kolkata and Guwahati after air traffic controllers reported the presence of an unidentified flying object near the runway. This prompted immediate action from the airport authorities, who decided to close the “controlled airspace” in Manipur’s capital, Imphal, resulting in a halt to all flight operations. Approximately 1,000 passengers were affected by the sudden closure of airspace.
To manage the situation, the Airports Authority of India (AAI) handed over control of the airspace to the Indian Air Force (IAF). Only after the IAF gave the all-clear did the airspace become available again for commercial flight operations. The incident unfolded around 2 pm when the air traffic control (ATC) and individuals on the ground observed the unidentified flying object. Subsequently, the three affected flights—two Air India and one IndiGo—were instructed not to take off, while two incoming flights were diverted.
The diverted flights are anticipated to reach Imphal later in the night, as the airport, despite being surrounded by hills, possesses night-landing capabilities. Operations resumed after the extended watch hours, allowing the diverted flights to operate on the same day.
Imphal airport director Chipemmi Keishing confirmed the drone sighting and stated that all three flights took off after receiving security clearance from the “competent authority.”
Passengers shared their ordeal, recounting hours spent inside the airport and on aircraft, with boarding completed by 3 pm but take-off clearance received only around 6.10 pm. Despite concerns and anxieties, passengers demonstrated remarkable cooperation and patience. One passenger mentioned being served food inside the aircraft due to the extended sitting time. The delay, caused by an unidentified flying object, created an unusual situation at Imphal airport, leaving passengers relieved when the flights eventually departed.