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Sunday Jun 10 2018

Gilgit airport shut down after district administration briefly detains air traffic controller

KARACHI: Gilgit airport was shut on Sunday for flight operations after the only air traffic controller at the facility was detained by the district administration.

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) on Saturday issued a notification regarding the suspension in flight operations to Gilgit after air traffic controller, Yasir Iqbal, was briefly detained.

Two men in civvies arrested Iqbal, air traffic controller and officiating manager at Gilgit airport, on Saturday morning over a dispute between CAA and district administration on the chopping of trees from the surrounding area of the runway.

As per details, the deputy commissioner of Gilgit had ordered the air traffic controller’s detention after trees were chopped off from the surrounding area.

Authorities reportedly chopped off trees after pilots complained that due to a thick cover of trees surrounding the runway, landing and taking off of planes was being affected and posed a risk. Further, authorities claimed that at least eight to 10 fewer passengers were being allowed to board Gilgit flights as the weight would slow down take off and could possibly cause the plane to crash into trees.

However, the district administration sought a compensation from the aviation authority over the chopped trees and detained the air traffic controller.

Iqbal was, however, released a few hours later. 

Air Traffic Controller Guild President Javed Hanif alleged that Iqbal was ‘mistreated’ during his detention owing to which he could not perform duty and hence called for suspension in flight operations. Following this, the CAA had issued its notification.

CAA officials maintain that it is the district administration’s authority to ensure there are no tall trees or buildings in the runway surrounding areas and they cannot keep paying penalties for chopping off trees.

CAA Director General Hassan Baig while speaking to Geo News said, “The matter regarding compensation for the chopped trees would be resolved soon.”


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