Whether Major or Small, almost all the Indian Airports are getting affected from the Dense Fog surrounding the region. Most affected airport is Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport, about which we talked about in a previous article. But apart from major airports, small airports have been hit as well.
Indian Airports : VFR Operations Stalled
Various Indian Airports solely depends upon Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations for handling flights. When operating an aircraft in weather circumstances that are normally clear enough to allow visual reference to the ground, pilots must abide by a set of regulations known as Visual Flight Rules (VFR) operations.
Instead of depending exclusively on instruments, pilots in VFR use their sense of sight to identify landmarks, the terrain, and other aircraft. This technique is usually used in mild weather conditions and requires good sight. Pilots adhering to VFR rules are required to stay clear of clouds and fly at altitudes and speeds that provide them with an unobstructed view of their surroundings. Although VFR offers flexibility, safe travel requires excellent weather.
In foggy conditions, operating flights under VFR conditions becomes impossible. As a result of this, various flights have been stalled. Lets see a few examples.
Rourkela-Bhubaneswar Flight Stopped
Indian Govt owned Alliance Air has suspended operations on Bhubaneswar to Rourkels route in wake of dense fog surrounding the Rourkela Airport. The airline suspended this route with effect from December 26. It cited poor visibility as the reason for stopping the service. Alliance Air operates thrice weekly service between Rourkela and Bhubaneswar with ATR-72 turboprop aircraft. Flights will remain suspended until 7th January. As soon as visibility conditions improve from Rourkela Airport, flights are expected to resume.
Soon, an Approach Control Unit (ACU) will be commissioned at Rourkela Airport. This will pave a way for the installation of VOR near the airport premises.
According to Bimal Bisi, a former general secretary of the Steel Executives’ Federation of India (SEFI), passengers are becoming more and more concerned about the continuation of airline service to Rourkela due to the frequent flight cancellations that have occurred since the ATR-72 operation began on January 7, 2023.
According to sources at the airport, Bisi was told that flights would start up again on January 10 following the activation of the Approach Control Unit, which would allow landings with a visibility of at least 1,500 meters. He said that there is still about 3,500 meters of visibility right now.
FlyBig Suspended Ludhiana-Gazhiabad Route
Due to low visibility at Ludhiana Sahnewal Airport, FlyBig has suspended operation temporarily. The airline operated daily flights between Ludhiana Sahnewal Airport to Ghaziabad Hindon Air Base in Ghaziabad. It deployed the 19 seater Twin Otter aircraft registered as VT-KHU.
Executive Vice President of FlyBig, Rajiv Sharma said that the airline has suspended the service until January 31 due to fog surrounding Ludhiana Airport. In January, there is a review meeting, in which this scenario will be discussed. Whenever we will have a visibility of 5,000 metres between 12 PM and 3 PM, we will resume the flights. Sharma added that if Ludhiana had an ILS System, this problem would have never arose. An ILS enables an airliner to land in low visibility conditions.
Officials at Ludhiana Airport confirmed that there are slim chances that the airline will restart services in January. In November month, the airline had to fly 25 times from Ludhiana but it flew only 8 times. In December, it operated only on Dec 1 and 2. After that, no flights were operated. Air connectivity is set to improve once the under construction airport in Halwara commence operations.
Conclusion : VFR Operations Hit at Indian Airports
Unfavorable weather, especially thick fog, has made it difficult for small aircraft, such as the Twin Otter and Cessna Caravan, to operate at several Indian airports, disrupting vital air travel services. Reduced visibility is a problem for airports like Rourkela and Ludhiana, making it difficult for these smaller aircraft to land safely.
Due to the fog, flights have had to be canceled or delayed, which has inconvenienced travelers and affected regional connectivity. Due to their heavy reliance on Visual Flight Rules (VFR), the Twin Otter and Cessna Caravan are attractive options for short-haul flights and linking isolated places, but they are especially susceptible to inclement weather. While authorities attempt to lessen the effects, travelers are urged to check for updates and the importance of aviation safety is emphasized.