The Tata-Singapore Airlines joint venture airline, Vistara has refuted media reports that quotes Indian regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, officials, that its pilots and aircraft are not likely to be Cat IIIB certified by this winter.
In a response to a detailed questionnaire seeking the airline’s responses, a Vistara spokesperson replied“Vistara has been working closely with DGCA for Cat IIIB certification for operations in low visibility. Considering our technical crew’s readiness, we are hopeful of getting the certification on time to be able to have uninterrupted operations during forthcoming winter season”.
No response to our queries on the level of progress or percentage of completion or if their aircraft are equipped with the needed equipment for Cat IIIB certification, though all A320s come factory equipped with the needed equipment. The spokesperson did not respond if there is any Plan B being considered, but then it is a little early for that.
Cat IIIB allows pilots to land in extremely low visibility, a regular unfortunate occurrence that plagues Vistara’s hub airport, New Delhi, during the winter season. To qualify for Cat IIIB, both individual pilots and aircraft have to perform a certain number of minimum “simulated” low visibility approaches and landings where the pilot does not look out of the cockpit till but instead flies the plane solely on instruments as he/she would in an actual low visibility approach.
The stringent requirement of the DGCA caught national carrier Air India off-guard when its brand-new and technology state of the art Boeing 787 Dreamliners were not Cat IIIB certified. The airline had to juggle its schedule and swap its new 787 services with the older Boeing 777s since they were Cat IIIB certified.
Given the corporate focus of Vistara, not obtaining the certification will be a body blow since most business travellers prefer to travel early mornings which maximises their work-day, which is also the time most prone to fog disruptions. Our 12 month infographics show the dramatic impact of the winter fog season on most airlines’ schedules even the well regarding IndiGo.
The other Tata promoted airline, AirAsia India, too has been indicated as “not likely” to receive Cat IIIB certification, but their failure to receive the nod should have a lesser impact on the low-cost carrier since its schedule at New Delhi is later in the day, by which time the fog normally burns off and visibility improves.