New Blind Landing Qualification Helps Airlines Land in Smog

December 23, 2013 Updated: December 23, 2013

An administrator with China’s Civil Aviation Administration has pointed out that improved blind landing capabilities will help airlines cope with poor visibility due to “thick fog and haze”—what might otherwise be called smog.

China’s Civil Aviation Administration ordered in early 2013 that all pilots operating flights between Beijing and the top ten Chinese airports must have Class 2 blind landing capability.

“The probability of a safe landing for flights in China would still improve despite reduced visibility due to thick fog and haze that shrouded major cities in the country,” claimed a report in the Dec. 11 edition of the Oriental Morning Post, a Shanghai-based newspaper.

“Blind landing” is the pilots’ capability to land a plane when the runway can’t be clearly seen with the eyes. “In bad weather conditions, blind landing can improve the probability of a safe landing,“ admitted an administrator at China’s Civil Aviation Administration.

He added that many passengers complained that flights operated by domestic airlines were forced to land at other airports in poor weather, while foreign airlines could always land their flights in the destined airports. “One of the reasons is that domestic pilots are not required to have Class 2 blind landing qualifications,” he explained.

The administrator stated, “As the occurrence of thick fog and haze becomes so frequent in China, Class 2 blind landing will be executed far more often than before.”

According to the order of the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA), all of the pilots who operate flights that depart from the 10 largest airports in China to the capital Beijing must have Class 2 blind landing certification starting from Jan. 1, 2014. In CAA’s record, Shanghai Pudong Airport and Hongqiao Airport ranked No. 3 and No. 4 among the airports in China in 2012.

Blind landing capability is not included in the assessment program for a pilot’s permit in the existing aviation regulation. Airlines rushed to offer special training sessions for their pilots, to prepare for blind landing, as soon as they received the order from the CAA.

Several insiders of the aviation industry interviewed by the reporter mentioned that the blind landing system also covers the upgrade of onboard apparatus on the planes and ground-based equipment of the airport.

So far, only three airports in China, i.e. Shanghai Pudong Airport, Beijing Capital Airport, and Guangzhou Baiyun Airport, are equipped with Class 2 blind landing systems.

In addition to higher precision requirements and higher cost, the blind landing system also mandates stricter control over radio interference and periodical maintenance. The precision and accuracy of the Class 2 blind landing system in the airport will need to be recalibrated using a specially designed airplane every four months. Therefore, nationwide implementation of blind landing is difficult at the present time.
The new requirement will come into effect on Jan. 1, 2014.

Translated by Leo Chen. Written in English by Christine Ford