Fog in Delhi disrupts air travel, over 200 flights delayed

  • The limited availability of CAT-III compliant runway capacity at Delhi airport hampers flight operations during low visibility

Anu Sharma
First Published31 Jan 2024
In total, over 200 flights experienced delays because of the reduced visibility at Delhi airport. (File Photo: Hindustan Times)
In total, over 200 flights experienced delays because of the reduced visibility at Delhi airport. (File Photo: Hindustan Times)

New Delhi: Air travel at Delhi airport, the country's busiest and largest, faced significant disruptions on Wednesday due to a dense fog that led to low visibility, affecting flight operations.

According to an airport official, by 7 am, about five flights were diverted - three to Jaipur, one to Ahmedabad, and one to Mumbai. In total, over 200 flights experienced delays because of the reduced visibility at Delhi airport.

The flight diversions mostly involved aircraft not operated by CAT-III qualified pilots. Category III, or CAT III, in aviation refers to an advanced instrument landing system (ILS) approach that facilitates landing in extremely low visibility conditions caused by fog, rain, or snow. A CAT III system supports a precision approach and landing, even when runway visibility is as low as 50 feet (15m) and the visual range is 50-200m.

However, the limited availability of CAT-III compliant runway capacity at the airport also hampers flight operations during low visibility. While the airport has three CAT-III compliant runways, its oldest runway 9/27 lacks this capability.

The operationalisation of runway 28/10, currently undergoing re-carpeting, has been postponed until mid-February, pending completion of findings by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Runway 29R-11L is CAT-III compliant on one end, and officials anticipate certification for CAT-III landings from both sides by next month. As a result, runway 29L-11R is currently the main runway for CAT-III flight operations.

Wednesday's rainy conditions could further disrupt flights, the airport official added. IndiGo, India's largest airline, has warned passengers of potential travel impacts due to forecast of adverse weather in Delhi, Srinagar, and Chandigarh.

"Due to expected poor visibility in Delhi (DEL), Varanasi (VNS), Patna (PAT), Ayodhya (AYJ), Bagdogra (IXB), and Darbhanga (DBR), light rain in Dharamshala (DHM), and snow in Srinagar (SXR) and Leh (IXL), all departures/arrivals and their consequential flights may get affected. Passengers are requested to keep a check on their flight status," SpiceJet said on social media platform X.

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