Despite the airlines' claim of having trained pilots on the CAT IIIB Instrument Landing System — which enables landing in near-zero visibility — not many are using it. The Indira Gandhi International Airport and the airlines, which had promised last year to tackle fog-related problems, have not been able to ensure smooth landings and take-offs.
The situation should not be so bad. According to Civil Aviation Ministry statistics, the number of pilots trained to use CAT IIIB has almost doubled since last winter and stands at 1,323. The number of CAT IIIB-compliant aircraft too has increased from 206 in 2009 to 289 at present.
But with the fog getting denser, thousands of passengers have been left stranded.
On Wednesday-Thursday, when flight disruptions were at their highest and CAT III conditions (visibility of less than 200 metres but more than 50 metres) continued from 9.30 p.m. Wednesday to 11.15 a.m. Thursday, only 58 domestic arrivals and 26 domestic departures took place using CAT IIIB. On a normal day, the figure should have been more than 250 flights. “The runways are equipped to handle aircraft in visibility up to 50 metres and the airlines claim they have pilots to fly in such conditions. The reality, however, is different,” said a senior airport official who didn’t wish to be named.
According to flight data in HT’s possession, Kingfisher Airlines undertook the largest number of CAT IIIB operations. It was followed by Air India, IndiGo, SpiceJet and Go Air. But Jet Airways, one of the largest airlines, used CAT IIIB for only 10 flight operations between January 19 and 23. “We have CAT III operations from Delhi as our Boeing aircraft are equipped to use CAT IIIB ILS and we have trained pilots too,” said a Jet spokeswoman but could give no answer for the few flights the airlines operated.