Foggy daytime flights affected by visibility device issue, airlines fear further disruption | Calcutta News

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Calcutta: The city’s airport experienced fog-related flight disruptions on Wednesday morning, when there should not have been. Airport sources said a critical instrument that measured visibility in the middle of the runway had developed a problem. This, in turn, led to the downgrade of the instrument landing system category at the airport from CAT III-B, which allows flights to proceed even in extremely low visibility conditions, to CAT I which requires considerably higher visibility for operations.
Without any details on when the middle runway visual range (average RVR) would be operational again, airlines are worried about further disruption over the next two months. For travelers, this could mean huge delays and congestion in the terminal during the peak winter holiday season.
“The meteorology service at the airport is the custodian of RVR equipment. It became unusable last month and we immediately asked them to fix it. We had a long meeting with the director of the Met who said he had informed his elders in Delhi about the matter and was doing his best to repair or replace the equipment as soon as possible. But until it’s fixed, we could also run into problems in the coming weeks, ”a senior airport official said.
The Category III-B ILS landing system installed at Kolkata Airport allows aircraft to land up to a visibility of 50 meters on the runway. If it falls further, operations must be suspended. But on Wednesday morning, the landing had to be suspended when visibility fell below 550m, while take-off was suspended below 200m due to the lack of mid-RVR. The worst visibility drop was 150 m, more than the minimum required for landing flights if the median RVR was functional. While a Boeing plane can land at a minimum visibility of 50m, an Airbus plane needs a visibility of 75m to land. For take-off, the minimum RVR required is 125 m.
Kolkata Airport has a touchdown-RVR, mid-RVR and end-RVR. But with the mid-RVR not functioning, a low visibility procedure was initiated in which the minimum visibility required for take-off is 200m and for landing is 550m.
As a result, an Ethiopian Airlines flight from Addis Ababa to Dhaka, which was rerouted to Calcutta due to poor visibility over the capital of Bangladesh, had to be redirected to Mandalay in Myanmar at 6.15am. Five minutes earlier, an IndiGo Airlines flight from Bengaluru had been rerouted to Bhubaneswar. At 7:30 a.m., a SpiceJet cargo flight from Wuhan in China was diverted to Dhaka, where the weather had cleared by then. Another IndiGo flight from Chennai was diverted to Bhubaneswar at 8:05 am. In the meantime, an IndiGo flight, which was scheduled to take off, had returned to the bay for visibility to improve. Several other early morning departures proceeded as usual when RVR requirements for them were met.
When the suspension was announced, passengers on some flights had already completed boarding and were waiting for the situation to improve. Another group had to wait at the terminal and they boarded the plane after the suspension was lifted, but still had to wait for the take-off of the scheduled flights before they took off. Frustrated passengers took to Twitter. “IndiGo flight 6E 375 departure scheduled at 7 am. Passengers embarked at 10:45 a.m. The pilots were not available. The pilots arrived at 11:22 a.m. Still awaiting departure. Miserable conditions for passengers arriving at the airport at 5:30 am, ”wrote one passenger bound for Raipur, Pawan Kajaria, at 11:32 am. The flight time by plane from Calcutta to Raipur is barely an hour and a half.
Another aviator, Abhishek Rania, tweeted at 11:37 am: “Flight time 7 am, boarding at 10:30 am for take-off at 11 am. But the pilots arrive at 11:30 am and no sign of take-off yet. The pilots don’t even apologize and threaten to cancel the flight now. ”
The fog was caused by the high humidity in the air after the rains on Sunday and Monday. Although the rain stopped around Monday evening, the overcast skies resulted in a build-up of airborne particles. The condensation of water vapor on these microscopic particles led to the fog.


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