If you want to fly in China, you need to be able to land in the smog.
China’s civil aviation regulator has set new rules mandating senior airline pilots operating on major routes into Beijing’s airport be certified to land aircraft under very low visibility, a move to help ease the nation’s worsening air traffic bottlenecks amid often heavy pollution.
China’s major airlines say they have been giving pilots additional training to comply with the new rules, which take effect Jan. 1, according to the carriers and state media.
The decision comes amid worsening pollution across China cities that at times is affecting commercial airline traffic. Last week, thick smog enveloped Shanghai and parts of eastern China, cutting visibility in the city of Nanjing to less than 50 meters and resulting in many flight delays and cancellations.
Thick smog impacting visibility has also caused cancellations and delays at Beijing Capital International Airport, the nation’s busiest and worst in terms of on-time performance, with only 45% of flights departing on time in November, according to travel industry monitor FlightStats.
Depending on weather conditions and runway infrastructure, modern jetliners have sophisticated instruments to help them land in little or no visibility, such as foggy conditions. Pilots, though, need additional certification to perform such approaches, which usually don’t compromise safety. Airlines have varying rules on minimum visibility levels acceptable for landing, though low-visibility landings are frequently done by major airlines in the West.
The special certification for pilots to make low-visibility landings, a common international requirement, applies to situations where visibility drops to 350 meters or less.