In spite of three runways and state-of-the-art equipment, the Indira Gandhi International Airport failed the fog test on Saturday. And it’s only going to get worse.
After a relatively fog-free December, the IGI airport witnessed dense fog for prolonged hours on Saturday.
Unprecedented chaos followed with the failure of the airport’s fogfighting equipment that was meant to allow flights to operate in very poor visibility. The airport remained shut for close to nine hours as a result.
No flight could take off or land between 1.20 am and 10.20 am after visibility dropped to less than 50 metres. A glitch in the cables connected to the Runway Visual Range (RVR) measuring machine forced air traffic control officials to suspend flight operations.
While visibility improved in the day, weather conditions started worsening by evening and by 8.30 pm, visibility plummeted to below 50 metres again. With the RVR machines still not completely repaired, only runway 29 was operational on standby mode.
Domestic operations were severely affected in the evening, with most flights delayed and some diverted.
Sunday is expected to be very chaotic at the airport due to the huge backlog of flights.
“The RVR machine is not operational for the last three days. What was the met department doing?” said a senior airline official who didn’t wish to be named.
The met department has forecast similar weather conditions for the next two days but the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has instructed that urgent measures should be taken to rectify the fog equipment.
Passengers had to face one of the worst fog led flight disruption in many years as more than 200 flights got delayed, many by four to five hours. International passengers were stranded for seven to twelve hours as the flight time limitations of the crew expired and they had to given rest.
Passengers taking morning flights had to spend close to three hours sitting in their aircraft, waiting for the weather to improve so they can fly.
“I had an urgent meeting in Mumbai but the flight is so late that I’m going to miss it,” said Rajeev Kumar, a Delhi resident. “I have already spent hours inside the terminal and aircraft and got no food. I have decided to cancel my ticket.”
A pregnant woman passenger traveling by Air India’s Sharjah Delhi flight, which was diverted to Jaipur felt sick due to the long hours and delay. “She was feeling unwell and wanted to get down and go to her brother’s place who lives in Jaipur,” said an Air India spokesman.
Passengers arriving at Delhi also had a tough time as their flights hovered for hours above the congested airport.