Fog is the bane of New Delhi winters haunting air travellers every year like clockwork.
All this despite the New Delhi Indira Gandhi international airport being the nation’s most technically advanced airport with Cat IIIB ILS equipped runways which permits landings in as low as 50 meters visibility.
It is natural for the average traveller to wonder on these delays despite all the runway infrastructure in place.
Just having the runway infrastructure is not enough. To fully utilise the Cat IIIB system, an airline must have a Cat IIIB trained and certified pilot operating the flight, and a Cat IIIB capable aircraft.
Over the years Indian carriers have been growing their pool of Cat IIIB trained and certified pilots, but in the area of aircraft, most of the Boeing 737s operating in India are still not equipped with the additional optional equipment required for Cat IIIB operation and are only Cat IIIA compliant.
In comparison the Airbus A320 comes Cat IIIB ready “out of the box” so to say.
Therefore in poor visibility, while the A320 can land in 50 metre visibility, the 737 requires 175 metre visibility. For take-off though, India’s DGCA has specified a minimum 125 metre visibility for both the 737 and the A320.
In India, the Boeing 737 is operated by Jet Airways, JetLite, SpiceJet and Air India Express, while the Airbus A320 family is operated by Air India, GoAir, IndiGo and Kingfisher Airlines.
The Boeing 737s of Air India Express have the additional Cat IIIB equipment installed, but almost none of their pilots are Cat III trained or certified, so the airline is effectively reduced to a Cat I (landing in 550 metres visibility) capability.