Skip to main content

Smog forces 'blind landing' training on China's pilots

By Peter Shadbolt, CNN
December 12, 2013 -- Updated 0758 GMT (1558 HKT)
A man stands next to an airplane in heavy smog in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013.
A man stands next to an airplane in heavy smog in Harbin, northeast China's Heilongjiang province, on October 21, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Chinese pilots for even small airlines will be required to get 'blind landing' training due to smog
  • Aviation authority says smog is now so bad that it is causing delays in flight scheduling
  • International airlines have on board systems that allow them to land with next to no visibility
  • The latest bout of smog in Beijing and Shanghai has led to the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights

Hong Kong (CNN) -- Smog in Beijing is now so bad and such a regular occurrence that the country's civil aviation authority will require the pilots of even small commercial airlines to be able to perform "blind landings."

The move is aimed at easing delays at Beijing Capital International Airport, which has had the worst flight delays out of 35 international airports.

READ: China airports world's worst for on-time performance

According to China's state-run China Daily, the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) will from January 1 require pilots flying from China's 10 busiest airports to Beijing to be able to use instrument-landing system on hazy days with a visibility of 400 meters.

"It is part of a series of measures the administration took recently to raise flights' on-time performance," a CAAC source told the China Daily.

Large passenger aircraft from international airlines require their pilots to have a "blind landing category 2" certification allowing them to land in poor visibility. This was one of the reasons, the source pointed out, that international airlines suffered fewer delays.

China's toxic smog problem
Thick smog blankets city, closes schools

The latest bout of smog in Beijing and Shanghai has led to the cancellation or delay of hundreds of flights, stranding passengers and creating chaos at airports.

Chinese media reports said that while 80% of the pilots at Spring Airlines, half of China Eastern and most of Juneyao Airlines pilots had received training, only larger airports such as those in Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xian were equipped with ground systems that allowed for blind landings.

A pilot with Cathay Pacific, who did not want to be named because he was not authorized to speak, said that modern jetliners can be brought to land in zero visibility.

"The greatest limitation is really being able to taxi off the runway," he told CNN, adding that modern aircraft had three systems on-board that could auto-land a plane.

He said training in these systems involved identifying deficiencies or failures in any of the systems and establishing at what point the pilots would have to abort a landing.

He added that the problems that smog and pollution created for aviation was not just isolated to China and that other countries had also struggled with the problem.

"The whole concept of auto-land was developed in England in the 1960s for the fog that London gets and on top of that all the pollution that they got at the time," he said. "This is just the same technology moving into the industrial revolution that's happening in China at the moment."

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 22, 2014 -- Updated 0916 GMT (1716 HKT)
He's one of the fieriest political activists in Hong Kong — he's been called an "extremist" by China's state-run media — and he's not old enough to drive.
September 16, 2014 -- Updated 0929 GMT (1729 HKT)
Christians in eastern China keep watch in Wenzhou, where authorities have demolished churches and removed crosses.
September 10, 2014 -- Updated 0538 GMT (1338 HKT)
Home-grown hip-hop appeals to a younger generation but its popularity has not translated into record deals and profits for budding rap artists.
September 9, 2014 -- Updated 0545 GMT (1345 HKT)
Reforms to the grueling gaokao - the competitive college entrance examination - don't make the grade, says educator Jiang Xueqin.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 1218 GMT (2018 HKT)
Beijing grapples with reports from Iraq that a Chinese national fighting for ISIS has been captured.
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 0200 GMT (1000 HKT)
CNN's David McKenzie has tasted everything from worms to grasshoppers while on the road; China's cockroaches are his latest culinary adventure.
September 5, 2014 -- Updated 0057 GMT (0857 HKT)
Beijing rules only candidates approved by a nominating committee can run for Hong Kong's chief executive.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1914 GMT (0314 HKT)
China warns the United States to end its military surveillance flights near Chinese territory.
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0312 GMT (1112 HKT)
China has produced elite national athletes but some argue the emphasis on winning discourages children. CNN's Kristie Lu Stout reports
August 19, 2014 -- Updated 0513 GMT (1313 HKT)
Chinese are turning to overseas personal shoppers to get their hands on luxury goods at lower prices.
August 15, 2014 -- Updated 0908 GMT (1708 HKT)
Experts say rapidly rising numbers of Christians are making it harder for authorities to control the religion's spread.
August 11, 2014 -- Updated 0452 GMT (1252 HKT)
"I'm proud of their moral standing," says Harvey Humphrey. His parents are accused of corporate crimes in China.
August 6, 2014 -- Updated 1942 GMT (0342 HKT)
A TV confession detailing a life of illegal gambling and paid-for sex has capped the dramatic fall of one of China's most high-profile social media celebrities.
July 31, 2014 -- Updated 0410 GMT (1210 HKT)
President Xi Jinping's campaign to punish corrupt Chinese officials has snared its biggest target -- where can the campaign go from here?
July 30, 2014 -- Updated 0712 GMT (1512 HKT)
All you need to know about the tainted meat produce that affects fast food restaurants across China, Hong Kong, and Japan.
July 18, 2014 -- Updated 0230 GMT (1030 HKT)
Some savvy individuals in China are claiming naming rights to valuable foreign brands. Here's how companies can combat them.
July 16, 2014 -- Updated 0911 GMT (1711 HKT)
Is the Chinese president a true reformist or merely a "dictator" in disguise? CNN's Beijing bureau chief Jaime FlorCruz dissects the leader's policies
July 8, 2014 -- Updated 0344 GMT (1144 HKT)
With a population of 1.3 billion, you'd think that there would be 11 people in China who are good enough to put up a fight on the football pitch.
ADVERTISEMENT