Passengers from the Bengaluru International Airport should brace themselves for a significantly foggy winter, thanks to an extended rain season that is continuing even now.
As per aviation experts within the airport operating company and air traffic control fraternity, rains in Bangalore normally cease within October thus giving the ground and the air to dry out before the onset of winter by late November.
This year however, the rains are continuing till date and are showing no signs of abating. A jet stream all the way from the Malay peninsula is tracking across the Bay of Bengal continuously bringing moisture in to the skies over Bangalore. This high moisture in the air, coupled with the many water bodies in the northern outskirts of the city, intensifies the hill effect fog generated by the Nandi Hills just a few miles north of the airport. The airport has already suffered three days of fog shut down and the official fog season has not even begun.
Based on historical data from the old airport, the new airport had originally planned for only nine days of fog and implemented a Cat-I ILS system. This has proved inadequate. During the 2009-10 winter season the airport suffered more than 30 days of fog disruption. The fog normally commences around 04:00 and disperses by 08:30. However, since the airport has its highest flight movements between 06:00 and 09:00, the impact of even this limited period fog is magnified on the passengers.
Upgrading to a Cat-II or even Cat-III ILS system for low visibility operations is not an immediate possibility since it will require a shut down of the existing single runway. As per Bengaluru International Airport Ltd. officials, the airport will put an upgraded ILS system when it constructs the second runway 09R-27L on the south side, in about five years time. Once the new runway is operational, the existing runway can be shut down for an upgrade.
For the interim the air traffic control is working with a low-visibility take-off (LVTO) procedure that allows flights with LVTO certified pilots to take-off in poor visibility. However, this does not extend to landings.
Passengers are advised to keep in mind the early morning propensity for fog when booking their flights.