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Fog disrupts flights from Heathrow and London City Airports


Forum Editor

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132 flights from Heathrow have been cancelled because of fog, and a weather warning for dense fog has been issued for Yorkshire and Humberside, the East and West Midlands, the East of England and the South East. That will probably mean further cancelled flights and severe disruption. I'm no aviation expert, apart from having flown as a passenger countless times, but I would have thought that in the 21st century,with all the technology at our disposal we could manage to come up with systems that would enable aircraft to take off and land without the people on the flight deck having to see the ground. Over sixty years ago RAF aircraft were able to take off and land in fog, thanks to a system known as FIDO. The idea was to burn petrol along both sides of the runway, thus raising the air temperature,which cleared the fog from the runway. I know it took a horrifying amount of fuel to do this, and I'm not suggesting anything like that. Nowadays we should surely be able to leave the fog where it is and get the aircraft onto and off the ground through it, or am I suggesting the impossible?

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spuds

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I recall the days when we had 'pea-soupers', and with that came the clean-up acts of having smokeless zones, which seemed to help. At that point it may have been the case that the experts thought that they had solved the problem, and as such have not put all that much importance or funding to the subject of ground level fog since?.

Nature as a funny way of giving wake-up calls, and on many occasions the authorities and perhaps the public are not prepared or made provisions for this. Recently there was a program on television about weather forecasting, and it became very apparent, that it didn't matter how many £millions was spent on equipment, they would never be able to predict weather forecast any where new 100%. Whatever you had on the day, that is what you got!.

Regarding aircraft colliding on runways, I saw this once at Heathrow, when a PanAm 747 'wing-tipped' a Aer Lingus smaller Boeing when on the taxiway. This was on a very clear and normal day, and one could only assume that the larger aircraft pilot had not seen the smaller aircraft, even though it may or would have known the other aircaraft was very close. With that incident came all the safeguards and safety procedures, with the areas being closed down,while an investigation was activated. Very little damage, if any, was evident to the viewing eye of passengers. I think on that day, flights already on the runways were held back for about an hour, before being given the go-ahead. But it does make you think, if a tank or tanks had ruptured, what would have been the scene then, with other aircraft being in close proximity?.

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amonra

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Most modern aircraft are quite capable of landing and taking off without manual intervention, BUT, if the pilot cannot find his way from the end of the runway to the stand, then all the technology in the world is useless !

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Forum Editor

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"if the pilot cannot find his way from the end of the runway to the stand, then all the technology in the world is useless !"

Yes, I can understand that. I've spent a lot of time in aircraft, and I sometimes wonder how they find their way to the stand in clear weather, let alone fog. I'm sure it would be feasible to equip modern aircraft with the technology to lock to a grid that was embedded in the taxiways, but I imagine that the cost would be considerable, and there aren't enough foggy days/nights to make it all worthwhile.

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Woolwell

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"I'm sure it would be feasible to equip modern aircraft with the technology to lock to a grid that was embedded in the taxiways," for some reason scalextric slots spring to mind. How they would be controlled I'm not sure and it would remove any extra manoeuvrability.

Back to the original question - some aircraft can take off and land in fog. The first British aircraft was the Trident. Autoland article

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flycatcher1

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RAF aircraft often took off in very,very poor visibility. If the Pilot, with a Master Green Instrument Rating, could see to taxi he would be cleared for take-off.

It is often possible to land in extemely poor visibility with the correct equipment the problem lies, as others have said, in taxying off the runway.

Some years ago I was in a Vulcan that landed at Scampton in very poor weather, once on the runway we went into a dense bank of fog and the vis was so bad that the Ground Services declined to come out to guide us to parking. It was my job to lead the aircraft in on a long, not long enough in my opinion, lead which I was able to do - just. I felt like a lad taking his pet Dinosaur for a walk. Happy Days!

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VCR97

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Heathrow's ATC mamager was on Radio 4's PM programme today. He said that they normally land forty-odd planes per hour in normal conditions but in fog they reduce this to twenty-odd per hour. He said that this was to "protect the ILS beams" but I don't know what he meant by "protect". I'm not clued-up on ILS so I won't guess.

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VCR97

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Mamager!

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Woolwell

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VCR97 - From the link in my previous post "Furthermore, as it taxis off the runway and down any parallel taxiway, it itself acts a reflector and can interfere with the localiser signal. This means that it can affect the safety of any following aircraft still using the localiser. As a result, such aircraft cannot be allowed to rely on that signal until the first aircraft is well clear of the runway and the “Cat. 3 protected area”.

The result is that when these low visibility operations are taking place, operations on the ground affect operations in the air much more than in good visibility, when pilots can see what is happening. At very busy airports, this results in restrictions in movement which can in turn severely impact the airport’s capacity. In short, very low visibility operations such as autoland can only be conducted when aircraft, crews, ground equipment and air and ground traffic control ALL comply with more stringent requirements than normal." ie protect the ILS beams.

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TopCat®

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Shortly after the time world oil and fuel prices doubled overnight - I believe that was in the early 70's - there was a call to industry and the populace at large to come up with ways to conserve fuels of every description. Taxiing aircraft, it was said, burned considerable amounts of fuel just getting from loading to its alloted take-off runway, so this led to the following idea being suggested at the time.

What was proposed for the aviation industry was that all our major airports should be brought up to a '21st century standard' and have computerised central trackways built into every taxiway on the airports - something similar to a Scalectrix design.

After loading completion the aircraft would then be connected through a special nose-wheel 'clamp' to a computerised 'tug' which would tow the plane, with engines stopped, along the taxiway to just before the runway approach zone. There its engines would be started and quickly checked out before moving onto the runway. Other pre-flight checks and settings would have been completed during the taxiway travel time. If the engine test run-up or anything else proved defective then the aircraft would be ordered away from the take-off zone to a safe parking area, pending a technical inspection.

Funnily enough, after all the many oil and fuel price increases since the 70's, I've not heard anything like the idea above mentioned since. :o) TC.

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Woolwell

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TopCat® - Wonder what would happen to such a system in snow or when a snow plough goes over it?

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