Reminder about firework laws

Lasers and large firework displays could present a hazard to aircraft over the holiday season, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Cayman Islands has cautioned.

In a release to the media, the authority reminded residents that organisers planning firework and light displays are legally required under the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order 2007 to coordinate their proposed events with the Civil Aviation Authority in order to prevent potential threats to aircraft operations.

“It’s a self-policing legal requirement that should be met, and we expect people who want to carry out fireworks displays within the proscribed areas or outside the proscribed areas but within the proscribed height band, to get in touch with us and let us know what they’re doing, because there is a potential risk to aviation if they don’t,” said Alistair Robertson of the Civil Aviation Authority.

Domestic or ceremonial

Firework displays can vary from small domestic events to major commercial or ceremonial displays, while light shows include all outdoor laser and searchlight displays. The associated risk posed by these events is increased when the activities take place in the vicinity of aerodromes, particularly during critical phases of flight, including approach, landing and take-off.

The hazard, said the authority, is more likely to be from the unexpected dazzle rather than ocular or physical damage, although the risk of actual injury cannot be ruled out. Coordination with the CCACI is required to mitigate such risks for all firework activity within three nautical miles of an airport or under the approach and departure paths.

Firework displays outside this area but where the display height is expected to exceed 200ft above ground level must also be coordinated with the CAACI. Proposed laser and searchlight events within the same areas are similarly subject to coordination with and approval by the CAACI.

People should check the fireworks box if they are unsure of the height that the display could reach, said Mr. Robertson.

“The general pack that you let off in your back yard is generally under 200ft and it says on the box the height they will go to. There will be hundreds of fireworks displays over the holiday period, and particularly over the new year, but few of them will be of concern to aviation.”

He added that laser displays, if not angled correctly, present a real threat to aviation, as their range is vast, meaning the risk of pilots being blinded is a very real one.

“If people are going to keep them at low level and around the area of the club or beach and don’t intend to angle them up into the sky [then that is fine]; they have an ability to go some distance, and if they get in your eye, they have the potential to upset you. We prefer these things kept in a horizontal rather than vertical plane, which applies equally to lasers and searchlights,” said

Mr. Robertson.

Event planning

Firework, laser and light displays that come into this category must be formally approved in advance by the CAACI and will incur the appropriate fee, as identified in the Air Navigation (Overseas Territories) Order Fees Regulation 2010.

Organisers planning events in what is considered to be a risk area should discuss their requirements with the CAACI well in advance of the intended date. Generally an approval costs $250, said Mr. Robertson, but there is always discretion that can be exercised by the governor and delegated to the director of civil aviation.

“If it was for a charity or community-based cause, then he would consider whether to charge that fee or not. To issue an approval does cause a reasonable amount of work as the site has to be investigated, its relationship to the airport has to be established, and at the end of the day we have to send out a circular to all of the aviation community who might possibly want to fly into the Cayman Islands during that period – not just scheduled aeroplanes but private flights coming into and through the area.”

The civil aviation professional added that in the past there has been cause to investigate instances of violations of the fireworks requirements, but it was not the preferred method of the authority.

“Hopefully, regulation is applied sensibly rather than in a draconian fashion. If you’re going to have a firework display, think about where it is, think about the height that it’s going to be, and if you feel the need to discuss it with us, please do that. We’re very approachable and honestly don’t bite,” said Mr. Robertson.

For more information, call 949-7811 or email [email protected]

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