Friday, September 23, 2011

Shock as Directorate General of Civil Aviation OKs bad weather landing

MUMBAI: A new set of rules put into effect by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday permit pilots to land even in adverse weather conditions and poor visibility if the aircraft has descended beyond a certain height. The new norms are vague and prone to misuse and drawn flak from air safety experts who say it can have fatal consequences.

According to the revised norms (Civil Aviation Requirement) pertaining to ``All Weather Operations'', if the weather conditions are below the minimum prescribed for a safe landing when the aircraft is at a point called the ``approach ban point'', then the pilot cannot continue with the landing. The rules define an approach ban point as one that is either 1000feet above aerodrome elevation or in airports like Mumbai that have an Instrument Landing System. It is beyond what is called an outer marker. For runway 27 of the Mumbai airport, the outer marker is located about 8 miles from the runway threshold. So, when an aircraft reaches that point, it cannot continue with its descent if, say the visibility is poor and below the required minima. Air safety experts have no problem with this norm. The problem is with the next rule that is a result of this one.

The new CAR says that ``if weather deteriorates after an aircraft has passed the approach ban point, the aircraft already on approach may continue'' and complete the landing.

Said Capt Mohan Ranganathan, an airsafety expert: ``This is an extremely dangerous statement and it is going to result in a fatal accident.'' He added that in poor visibility the visual illusion factor is very high and this has been a large contributor to approach and landing accidents. ``It can be extremely catastrophic in critical airfields like Mangalore, Calicut or Srinagar,'' he said. Like for instance in heavy rain, a pilot could get blinded and continuing with a landing can be dangerous like the Gulf Air runway excursion accident in Cochin airport last month. Pilots pointed out that the new norm on continuing with a landing in adverse weather was vague and so could be misused by unscrupulous operators.

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