Finally some good news for air travellers. The third runway of Indira Gandhi International Airport is finally ready to operate during dense fog.
The new runway, built at a cost of over Rs 1,000 crore, couldn’t be used when dense fog hit the airport on Wednesday, as it was not certified to operate in such conditions.
The runway was commissioned for low visibility air traffic operations on Friday after an inspection by Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Planes would now be able to land and take-off from the runway even if the visibility drops to near zero (50 metres).
The runway has a Category IIIB Instrument Landing System (ILS) that guides aircraft to land almost in zero visibility.
Though the ILS had been installed at the runway, it could not be used during fog because another component — the surface movement radar — was not operational.
This radar helps the air traffic controllers to guide planes from the runway to their parking bay during zero visibility.
As the radars were yet to be certified by DGCA, the runway couldn’t be used on Wednesday and Thursday during dense fog.
Not enough pilots
While IGIA finally has two CAT IIIB ILS-equipped runways, how much they would be used in dense fog depends upon the availability of pilots trained to use the system.
DGCA has directed all airlines to ensure that CAT-III compliant aircraft and pilots are rostered for operating from Delhi Airport. This will be strictly monitored by DGCA on a day-to-day basis. While close to 200 flights operate out of IGI Airport every day, only 191 landings and take-offs took place in CAT-III in the last fog season.
Despite strict warnings by DGCA every year, airlines like Jet Lite and SpiceJet have no CAT-III trained pilots. An official of a budget carrier told HT that it costs nearly Rs 8 lakh to train a pilot in CAT I, II and III. “The problem lasts 15-20 days each year, it is not worth the expenditure,” he said.