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Fog blanket stalls flights, trains

delhi Updated: Dec 27, 2010 02:09 IST
HT Correspondent
HT Correspondent
Hindustan Times
Dense fog

Dense fog continued to blind Delhi on Sunday, paralysing air and rail traffic.

Indira Gandhi International Airport was shut down for more than two hours on Saturday night due to zero visibility. Poor visibility hampered flight operations for 18 hours at a stretch from Saturday evening to Sunday afternoon.

And it was the same old story at the airport, with authorities unable to deal with the chaos resulting from the delays, diversions and cancellations.

Stranded passengers created unruly scenes at Terminal 3 and domestic departure terminal 1D, even snatching public announcement microphones and shouting slogans against airlines and aviation authorities. Security personnel had a tough time controlling them.

More than 250 flights were delayed by one to 10 hours, 38 were cancelled and an unprecedented 42 scheduled to land in Delhi were diverted to other airports.

The CAT IIIB Instrument Landing System, which helps pilots land in poor visibility, didn’t make much of a difference. The device stops working after visibility goes below 50 metres. And from 10.30pm Saturday to 8.30am Sunday, visibility hovered around the minimum level.

It was the same situation at the railway stations. More than 100 trains were delayed by one to 27 hours on Sunday and thousands of passengers were stranded. Ten trains were cancelled, 70 were running late and the departure of 23 was rescheduled, Northern Railway officials said.

With the weather forecast predicting foggy days ahead, the civil aviation ministry met airport stakeholders and changed some of its rules to allow flight movements in reduced visibility conditions, to ensure minimum inconvenience to passengers.

"The ministry has taken a number of steps to ensure that during fog and low visibility, the safety of flight operations is maintained and inconvenience to passengers is minimised," civil aviation secretary SNA Zaidi said.

The ministry brought down visibility range for operation of large aircraft from 175m to 150m and for smaller planes from 150m to 125m. However, no flights will be operated if at visibility below 50m.

The ministry also reiterated that planes that aren't compliant with the CAT IIIB ILS system won't operate before 10am at Delhi airport, and airline won't carry out boarding operations till visibility has reached 125m.

According to Zaidi, there are 300 domestic CAT IIIB-compliant aircraft and 2,100 pilots trained to use the system.