On November 5th 1605, Guy Fawkes was arrested while guarding explosives that were placed beneath the UK House of Lords. Celebrating the fact that King James I had survived the attempt on his life, people lit bonfires around London. Since the UK has celebrated Guy Fawkes Night or Bonfire Night with bonfires and fireworks.
When I was young, we would made a fill-size ‘Guy’ effigy from old clothes stuffed with newspaper. We’d then wheel him around the streets in an old pram begging change ‘Penny for the Guy Mister?’ from passers by. Come the 5th we’d sit him atop the bonfire – not surprisingly that doesn’t happen much these days.
You may have wondered what it’s like to fly on a commercial jet flight during a firework display. Is there any danger? Would you see fireworks whizzing past the window? The answer is probably not.
Most store-bought fireworks only reach 400 feet/121 metres, display-grade fireworks can reach at most 1400 feet/426 metres. A typical cruising altitude of a commercial aircraft is 35,000 feet/10km. Obviously as they come into land, they get lower and for that reason, there aren’t major firework displays close to airports.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority asks display organisers to register their displays https://www.caa.co.uk/Consumers/Displays-and-events/Displays-and-events/ and pilots are notified. Nonetheless, since 2000, fireworks have struck at least eight aircraft as they landed at UK airports. The pilots of a further 28 passenger jets reported fireworks exploding in close proximity, often dazzling flight crew during critical phases of flight. All reported incidents happened in late October and early November.
Endangering an aircraft with fireworks can lead to criminal charges. In 2006, a 20-year-old man was convicted by the Scottish Crown Office after setting off fireworks in his garden under the approach to Edinburgh Airport.
I’ve flown before on around the 5th November and have seen some dazzling displays beneath me – usually the top of the mushroom. I’m flying British Airways to London this evening and have a window seat reserved. I’m going to attempt to film the fireworks from above and post here afterwards. It may be that it’s too cloudy or I just don’t see any – I’ll update the post either way.
Post-flight update: The sky was quite clear but there weren’t many fireworks. This first video shows some fireworks a long way below.
I then waited until we were much lower but there were even less fireworks – still you may enjoy watching the flight land.