Friday, 13 December 2013

A blog about fog

The last couple of days, in the UK, it has been pretty foggy. This has meant some flight delays particularly at Heathrow.  A lot of nervous flyers worry about this.  Here is what fog means to an airport and why there are delays.

There are strict rules about how much visibility a pilot has to have with his/her own eyes.  These are set and are non-negotiable.  As commercial aircraft have pilots and we don’t do auto pilot controlled take offs, it has to be done by the pilots. If they can’t see due to fog, they won’t take off.  Fog (clouds without the will to fly) also do pass so we would have to just wait until it was clear enough.

Coming into land is a different matter.  Pilots  would prefer but do not have to be able to see the ground to be able to land so auto pilot landings can get round this problem.  However, a number of factors are important to mention here. 

First of all, the airport has be able to accept auto landings – it is all to do with the equipment that they have.  The larger airports in the UK, for example, can accept auto landings.  If you are coming into an airport without the technology to accept auto landings, then you may get diverted to somewhere without fog. This was already considered an option before the pilots even took off - so there is enough fuel to do this.

Secondly, the aircraft has to have the equipment/rating to be able to perform an automatic landing.  It is important to mention here that whilst the aircraft performs the auto land, the pilots are monitoring all the systems… ready to step in, if needs be. 

So, if the airport is equipped (like Heathrow is) and the aircraft are equipped (like most of the commercial aircraft landing there), why the delays?  (A question from one of our courses)

This is because air traffic control separate out the time between each landing away from the normal one every 90 seconds scenario. This allows an extra safety factor for the aircraft lining up to auto land. 

By the way, automatic landings are amazing. You may never get the chance to see this like we have, but to sit there watching the aircraft fly itself all the way to landing and stop is AMAZING.

Hope that helps a little for those worried about the weather?

Take care

Paul & Richard
Other news
1. All of our courses are filling up nicely...we have a few options for people depending on budget and needs.  Please have a look at the courses we offer.
2.  We have added a few more videos to our YouTube channel if you fancy a look at that. We are 'virginflyingwithoutfear'

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