Sunday, January 04, 2015

Equipped Dreamliners did not take off from Delhi in fog

NEW DELHI: Air India passengers could have been the only ones to fly out of Delhi in airline's Dreamliners even as others faced flight delays owing to dense fog. But the AI's failure to get regulatory nod for a lower low visibility take- off (LVTO) minima meant that the Boeing 787 too remained stuck on ground at IGI Airport despite being the only one in India to have a unique head-up display (HUD).

HUD is a drop-down glass apparatus, which gives pilot information about the aircraft's primary instruments and vital readings at their eye level. Without taking their eye off the windscreen, they have the entire control and readings at their fingertips, allowing them to take off when visibility is as low as 75 metre. Currently, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) allows planes to take off under LVTO only when the visibility is at least 125 metre.

"We have been asking the DGCA repeatedly to lower the take off minima for our Dreamliners. But this clearance has not been given despite the fact that our Boeing 787s are the only aircraft in India to have HUD," an AI official said. Airline officials alleged that they were not being given nod due to pressure from other airlines who feel that it will "look bad" if their planes remain grounded at the foggy IGI Airport while Dreamliners take off without any hiccups. The DGCA, however, rubbished this charge. It pointed out that AI Dreamliners still do not have the approval to use Category III (B) instrument landing system (ILS)—the system using which flights land when visibility is over 150 metre in dense fog. "AI Dreamliners have only ILS Cat II clearance so far. Reduced LVTO is linked to Cat III (B). How can they just propose to take off in dense fog when they can't land in the same? Supposing we allow Dreamliners to take off in 75 metre using HUD, what will they do if they have to turn back due to some technical issue? They will not be able to land using Cat III (B)," a senior DGCA official said.

"The trend in Delhi is that visibility falls from very good to very poor in minutes. There would be no chance for us to land in Cat II as the fog here has been very dense so far," the AI official admitted.

However, sources said the real reason of not being able to land B-787s using Cat II is that pairing of pilots — having both Cat II or III trained pilots in the cockpit of a flight — is not happening due to allegedly faulty rostering. 

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