Flights schedules went haywire and passengers got the usual wintry treatment as thick fog engulfed Indira Gandhi International Airport on Monday. More than 150 flights were delayed, 19 were cancelled and three diverted as visibility dropped to 50 metres at the airport. The conditions could remain as bad on Tuesday, according to the met department.
Visibility began dropping early on Monday and safeguard procedures had to be implemented from 3.40 am after the Runway Visual Range (RVR is the distance at which runway markings are visible to an aircraft pilot) was recorded at 1,300 metres. Low Visibility Procedures (LVP) kicked into action at 6.15 am when RVR dropped to 650 metres. The LVPs stayed in operation for 5 hours and 15 minutes till 11.30 am when the RVR climbed to 1,400 metres. Eighty domestic and 23 international flights operated during this period.
At least 150 flights were delayed by between two and three hours due to poor visibility and the resultant congestion. Three Air India flights (one international and two domestic) had to be diverted to Jaipur and Lucknow. Altogether 19 flights of different airlines had to be cancelled. The congestion became worse in the evening due to a backlog of flights with delays running up to four hours. Flights to Srinagar and Jammu too were badly affected due to bad weather conditions there.
Between 8.30 am and 9.20 am, visibility went down to 300 meters, forcing use of the CAT III-A Instrument Landing System. On Monday, it was only Air India with the largest number of CAT III-B trained pilots and equipped planes that operated in such conditions but flights of Kingfisher, Deccan, Jet and GoAir operated too, apart from international airlines.
"If you can plan in advance, it is better to travel by train. At least they are not cancelled abruptly and take you to your destination," said Gunasekharan, General Manager of Small Industries Development Bank of India's Lucknow branch. "While going to Hyderabad a few days back, the flight was cancelled and my plans were disrupted. Now my flight from Hyderabad to Delhi was not too much delayed but the connecting JetLite flight is delayed by more than three hours," he said. The flight (S2 163) was eventually cancelled.
Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Mayawati, who was on board a non-scheduled aircraft of the state government, too had to hover for more than an hour over IGI Airport before landing at around 11.30 am, sources said.
"Though the first phase of fog in morning saw less delays, the backlog meant delays of more than two hours in the afternoon," said an Air India official. "Also, the varying intensity of fog meant that even in CAT III conditions, airlines were lining up for CAT II operations," he said. As only the primary runway (28/10) could be used in the morning, the congestion became worse. Simultaneous of both the runways could start only after 4.16 pm, sources said.
To add to the problems, a hoax bomb call delayed a Deccan flight to Jabalpur (DN 505). "The flight was scheduled to leave Delhi at 6.55 am but the security checks went on till 2 pm," said a source.