Pilots train for 'blind landings' in smog

By Zhang Yiqian Source:Global Times Published: 2013-12-12 2:03:01

A smoggy day in Beijing’s Central Business District Photo: CFP

Pilots flying into Beijing from China's busiest provincial airports will all have to have upgraded qualifications that allow them to land in severe smoggy conditions, known as a "blind landing," from January 1. 

Zhao Yao, a pilot for Air China, told the Global Times that "blind landing" means being able to land when bad weather compromises the pilot's vision.

"It means landing with the help of equipment on land and in the aircraft. A beacon is sent from the landing airport to guide the aircraft to follow the correct flight path," he said.

At present, if the runway's visual range is from 350 to 550 meters, pilots not qualified at the higher level would have to abort the landing and fly to an alternate airport. Pilots that fly from the top 10 ranked domestic airports by passenger numbers to Beijing Capital International Airport (BCIA) are required to have the higher qualification. 

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), these pilots will be required to possess qualification category two of "blind landing," or the Instrument Landing System (ILS). The order was given in early 2013.

There are three categories of ILS, Zhao said, targeted to suit different levels of landing condition. Landing in a category two condition means landing with a minimum runaway vision range of 350 meters and a minimum alert height of 30 meters.

ILS also requires landing airports to have matching equipment. According to a 2012 Xinhua News Agency report, BCIA already has the equipment for ILS category one and two.

Pilots in China are required to have a category one landing qualification, Zhao said, but there was no previous regulation for category two qualifications, because most flights don't encounter flying conditions that require pilots to land with that upgraded skill.

Xu Yanchun, a publicist for Air China, told the Global Times that the company started training their pilots as soon as they received the notice from the CAAC. The company is expected to compete all training by the end of the year.

According to an article on eastday.com, about 80 percent of the pilots from Spring Airlines have passed the qualification exam. China Eastern Airlines and Juneyao airlines also stated that most of their pilots have finished the training.

The upgrade in pilot qualifications ensures more flights can be on time in bad weather conditions, Zhao said.

On January 29, 2013, 49 flights were cancelled at BCIA because of smog, which then caused knock-on effects and flight delays across the country, aviation news portal ccaonline.cn reported.

The busiest airports in 2012 include both Pudong and Hongqiao airports in Shanghai, as well as airports in Guangzhou and Shenzhen in Guangdong Province, according to the CAAC.

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