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Fog peril at HSIA to go by next winter

Published : 11 Jan 2023 10:12 PM | Updated : 11 Jan 2023 10:31 PM

As the country’s main airport does not have the latest technological facilities, airliners have to count extra money for flight operation when diverted during dense fog. However, the authorities concerned are optimistic that this problem will be solved by next winter.

Like in the past, scheduled flights has been disrupted at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport (HSIA) due to dense fog. Due to the fog, when flights fail to land it keeps circling in the sky for a specified time, later they are forced to land at other airports in the country or in neighboring countries.

Such situations increase operating costs including additional fuel costs and other charges including landing and parking. As a result, flight operation cost is going up-to 10 percent to 20 percent higher.  

US Bangla Airlines General Manager (Public Relation and Marketing) Kamrul Islam told Bangladesh Post that if an aircraft is unable to land at the designated airport due to any reason, additional landing and parking charges must be paid for landing at another airport. At the same time changing the scheduled route also increases the fuel consumption. Due to this passengers also have to wait for hours at the airport.

According to the airport information, if the visibility is below 600 meters, the airports switch to Low Visibility Procedures (LVPs). However, according to Flight Deck Friend, most commercial aircraft are capable of landing in thick fog, but it can depend on the type of aircraft and the facilities associated with the runway and airport. Some planes can land when the visibility is as low as 75 metres.

For landing in thick fog, an airport must have high-level Instrument Landing Systems (ILS). It is a state-of-the-art anti-fog landing system and helps the planes land with the help of radio signals and high-intensity lighting arrays. There are various categories of ILS.

For this it is necessary to have ILS category-2. HSIA has ILS Category-1. Modernization of equipment is needed to overcome this situation. This is called Air Traffic Management (ATM). Even though initiatives have been taken to modernize the ATM system, it has not been implemented till date.

Aviation experts believe that having an ILS Category-1 is a sign of poor management. The Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism has directed the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) to overcome this situation. It has been said that the ILS at HSIA should be upgraded from category 1 to category 2.

According to government data, more flights are operated at HSIA among the three international airports of the country. About 150 domestic and foreign flights are operated daily. In this situation, CAAB has taken the initiative of upgrading to ILS category 2. For this project, lights, mats and other accessories are required. But the initiative has not been implemented yet.

For example, the most widely used ILS in India is the CAT IIIB system which uses a radio altimeter to determine the decision height for landing. It uses voice prompts to tell the pilot when they need to deploy the flaps and, subsequently, when it needs to apply the brakes. Delhi, Amritsar, Jaipur, Lucknow, Bangalore and even Kolkata airports are equipped with CAT IIIB.

HSIA Director Mohammad Mahabubur Rahman (CNS) while talking to Bangladesh Post said, “The machine that we are using for flight operations here at the airport is a Category 2 machine but the other facilities like lights, mats and other accessories are still lacking. We are hopeful that by next winter we will be able to implement all the requirements and flight operation will not be disrupted due to fog. 

Aviation Expert Kazi Wahidul Alam told Bangladesh Post, “From the authorities concerned we are just having the assurance of implementing such facilities at the HSIA for the last 10 years but till now it remains the same. Due to this not only airliners' operation costs are going higher but passenger’s sufferings are increasing also. As this winter is about to end, if they can implement such technology before next winter, both airliners and passenger sufferings will be reduced.”     

In this case, he also said that it is also important to have the will of the authorities to speed up its implementation.