With shortage of pilots trained to fly in zero visibility conditions (Category III) leading to delays and cancellation of flights in the national capital, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has said that if the crew of an airlines is not trained to fly in CAT III conditions, its operations in Delhi will be suspended during the next fog season.
The DGCA has constituted a technical committee to make Delhi a zero-diversion airport from next season. CAT III is an instrumental landing system that allows aircraft to take off and land even when the visibility at the runway falls to zero.
Seven domestic commercial operators fly to and fro Delhi. Sources say all these airlines have been asked to ensure that their crews are trained to fly using CAT III system. “Both the commander and the co-pilot flying in and out of Delhi would have to be trained to fly in zero visibility,” said Prabhat Kumar, director general of civil aviation.
According to DGCA records, 1,283 commanders and 965 co-pilots of these airlines are trained to fly in CAT III conditions — which is roughly only half their strength. In the past 10 days, more than 600 flights flying in and out of Delhi have been affected because of dense fog.
Except for Air India and Jet Airways, not many pilots of the other airlines are trained to fly in CAT III conditions. “Not all pilots of private airlines are trained to fly using CAT III system, which leads to these delays,” added Kumar.
The training for flying in CAT III conditions is costly and not required in India except for 10 to 15 days. “Most airlines have created infrastructure for training their pilots for CAT II and CAT III procedures. But it is not required all the year round. So the airlines have not made it mandatory,” said a senior officer of the DGCA. As the DGCA has threatened to temporally cancel operations of the airlines that fail to get their crew trained, the private airlines will have to utilize their trained fleet for the capital. “We will utilise our trained pilots to fly in the Delhi sector during the fog season,” said an airline operator.