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Chinese pilots must now learn 'blind landings' thanks to smog

Posting in Technology
 
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In the latest rendition of "China's smog is so bad that...", China's pilots are being forced to learn a new skill: blind landing.

For travelers, Beijing Capital International Airport is a pretty miserable place to fly from. In November, only 45 percent of flights left on time (pdf). There are numerous reasons why flight delays are so bad in Beijing (and throughout China), but one of them is the persistent smog that hovers over the city. That's why the Civil Aviation Administration of China is requiring all pilots who want to fly into Beijing from the 10 busiest Chinese airports to become proficient in instrument landing systems that allow pilots to land even on extremely hazy days, state-media China Daily reports.

The government is requiring that pilots are qualified to use the low-visibility landing system by the beginning of next year. Many pilots are already using the system with visibility at 800 meters, but now they will need to be able to use it when visibility is just 400 meters. About 80 percent of Chinese pilots already have the necessary training, but that won't be the main challenge, according to China Daily:

A senior pilot at China Southern said on condition of anonymity that it is not difficult for pilots to pass instrument-landing system tests. "The biggest concern for airlines and airports would be the cost of refitting their aircraft and airport facilities," he said.

Despite all the challenges China's airlines face, the country is set to be one of the most important aviation markets in the coming years. The latest projections show that 24 percent of all new passenger growth will come from flights within or connected to China, making China the biggest driver of new passenger growth in the world, serving 227 million additional passengers. 

That is, if the smog doesn't drive them away first.

Photo: Flickr/IK's World Trip

— By on December 12, 2013, 1:14 PM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure