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  • With one CAT III runway, DIAL blames 50 of 58 diversions in four days on airlines; DGCA probe on | India News – Times of India

With one CAT III runway, DIAL blames 50 of 58 diversions in four days on airlines; DGCA probe on | India News – Times of India

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NEW DELHI: There can be no smoke without fire but there can be dense fog without biting cold. Airlines realised this when low visibility in the past few days of this mild winter has hit flights — and lakhs of hapless passengers — hard with long delays, cancellations and diversions. Now a blame game has started between airlines and Delhi Airport which currently has only one CAT III B compliant runway as reported by TOI on Thursday. Each side is blaming the other for the situation which should not have been so bad as the “right” planes and crew can land on a CAT III runway when visibility is upto 50 metres.
Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL) sources say as many as 58 IGIA-bound flights were diverted between the midnights of December 24-25 and 27-28. “Of these, 50 flights diverted (see list) because their captains were not trained to operate in low visibility conditions,” airport sources said.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is investigating this claim and finding out whose lapse led to diversions that could have been avoided. “We are verifying from airlines and air traffic control (ATC) data to check if 50 of the 58 diversions were due to captains not being trained for low visibility operations. That process is on,” said a senior official.
Comments were sought from all big airlines. Only Air India and SpiceJet responded before going to press.
An Air India spokesperson said: “AI strictly adheres to the time frame for rostering pilots trained to land in dense fog as laid down by DGCA. Some flights may get affected if fog sets in earlier than the scheduled window. Also, if the fog reduces the visibility below the minimum visual range (75 metres), a CAT III landing cannot be executed even by crew trained in Cat III and the flight has to be diverted to an alternative airfield.”
SpiceJet said in a statement: “As per the regulator, the fog period is between December 10 and February 10 with the window for CAT III operations from 9 pm to 10 am. (On Dec 27) weather dropped below minima after 7.30 pm leading to diversions. Out of (our) 10 diversion from December 25 to 28, one was a ferry flight (without passengers, only crew) and one (SG 204, Bengaluru-Delhi) was having CAT III-trained pilots.”

Thick layer of fog engulfs National Capital, several trains delayed due to low visibility

On November 6, 2023, the regulator had asked the industry to gear up for impending fog. But the warmer than usual winter led to airlines perhaps not ensuring all flights headed to Delhi in the fog window were on compliant aircraft and manned by cockpit crew members trained to operate in low visibility conditions, say multiple pilots across airlines.
IGIA has two CAT III B compliant runways — main airstrip 28/10 (once famous for its jumbo point) and 29L/11R that is closest to Gurgaon side and Shivji statue. Airport sources say re-carpeting of 28/10 “was due but that work was deferred due to a delay in operationalising” IGIA’s newest and fourth runway 29R/11L. “Re-carpeting of 28/10, which started mid September, is over now. In the next couple of days we will hand over the runway for DGCA inspection which will check the same. Once satisfied, unless it finds some work is required, the regulator will re-certify this as CAT III B compliant. When that happens, IGIA will again have two CAT III runways,” said sources.
Getting IGIA’s main warhorse 28/10 back as a CAT III B runway is crucial to avoid more shocks this winter with the foggy season firmly setting in now. The other compliant runway (29L) sees comparatively denser fog, with visibility going below 50 meters — when even CAT III B won’t work and flight movement is suspended — more often than at 28/10. “It has often happened in past winters that runway 29L has visibility below 50 metres and 28/10 still sees some landings due to slightly better visibility,” said senior pilots.

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Watch Delhi: Flight diversions due to dense fog hassle passengers at IGI airport



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