The airspace of Bir Tikendrajit International Airport in Imphal, Manipur was temporarily closed for commercial flight operations due to the sighting of an unidentified flying object (UFO). The closure lasted for nearly three hours, causing disruptions to flight schedules.
According to sources from the Airports Authority of India (AAI), the incident occurred at around 2:30 pm when the Imphal air traffic control (ATC) received a call from the Central Industrial Security Force (CISF) control room reporting the presence of a UFO above the ATC tower. The object, described as white in color, was visible from the terrace of the ATC tower and was also witnessed by people on the ground, including airline and CISF personnel.
The UFO flew over the terminal building and then moved southwards above the ATC tower, where it remained stationary for some time. It later moved towards the southwest of the runway and stayed there until 4:05 pm before disappearing. The sunset was at 4:26 pm.
During this time, an IndiGo A320 flight from Kolkata to Imphal with 173 passengers on board was instructed to keep a holding pattern until clearance was obtained from the security agencies, including CISF, Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS), Indian Air Force (IAF), and the Superintendent of Police (Imphal West). After waiting for 25 minutes, the IndiGo flight was diverted to Guwahati in Assam at 3:03 pm.
Another IndiGo A320 flight from Delhi to Imphal with 183 passengers on board was also diverted to Kolkata at 4:05 pm.
The Imphal ATC and the airport director immediately alerted various authorities, including the Delhi watch supervisory officer (WSO), Guwahati WSO, Kolkata WSO, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) Guwahati, Indian Air Force (IAF) in Silchar, IAF’s Eastern Air Command in Shillong, IAF military liaison unit in Kolkata, Manipur Chief Secretary, Director General of Police, Home Commissioner, BCAS regional director, Superintendent of Police (Imphal West), and District Commissioner (Imphal West).
During the airspace closure, three aircraft, including two Air India planes and an IndiGo aircraft, remained parked on the apron.
All airport operations were put on hold until further notice, and a Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) was issued to inform concerned personnel about the airspace closure. The Eastern Air Command initiated scanning of the Imphal airspace for potential threats from 3:55 pm to 5:35 pm. After no further sightings of the UFO, the Eastern Air Command allowed the resumption of normal operations at Imphal airport.
The closure was finally lifted at 5:45 pm after receiving clearance from the BCAS regional director in Imphal, the DGCA director of air safety in Kolkata, and the Joint Action Centre committee consisting of Manipur officials. The Imphal ATC regained control of the airspace, and aircraft operations resumed at 5:50 pm. The NOTAM was subsequently canceled.
The Indian Air Force (IAF) stated that they activated their air defense response mechanism based on visual inputs from Imphal airport but were unable to locate the small object after the initial sighting.
Overall, the incident caused significant disruptions to flight operations at Bir Tikendrajit International Airport, with flights being diverted and operations being put on hold until the airspace was deemed safe to resume normal activities.