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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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Forum Editor

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Rather than a mechanical system, I was thinking more of a means for an aircraft to have technology that could 'lock' to a grid embedded into the taxiway surface. The aircraft wouldn't be physically attached to anything. A screen on the flight deck would display a route for the aircrew to follow to the stand. Individual aircraft would be assigned codes which the system would recognise, so each aircraft would receive its own dedicated route.

Existing technologies could handle this easily.

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Woolwell

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I doubt that such a system would be cost effective. I don't think that the delays and cancellations are caused by the taxying but by having to increase the interval between aircraft to avoid interference with the ILS and therefore less aircraft landing and taking off. All ground movements are monitored by radar.

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Forum Editor

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I put in a call to a member of our family who is a senior 747 captain with a major international airline. This is what he told me.

All modern commercial jets have autoland capability,and can land themselves, even in dense fog. The autoland system will land the aircraft perfectly 100% of the time, always in the dead centre of the runway. The limitation is not imposed by the autoland system, but by the airport concerned. It's possible for the autoland to operate when the visibility on the ground is down to 50 metres, and the cloud base is at ground level.

At Heathrow low Visibility safety measures come into force when the Instrumented Runway Visual Range (IRVR) is 1000 metres and is expected to fall below 600 metres, or when the cloud ceiling is 300 feet and expected to fall to 200 feet. The airport takes action to protect the ILS localiser area and the GlidePath sensitive area, so that the ILS (Instrument Landing System) can function safely, and this means reducing the number of landings.

So now I know. It's not that aircraft can't land themselves safely in fog, it's just that fewer of them can do so in a given time.

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Quickbeam

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There's no reason whatsoever why they can't operate on a normal schedule, after all thick fog doesn't hinder motorists from doing normal driving activities, phoning, texting, preparing meeting notes, reading the paper, watching a DVD, applying makeup etc, etc...

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wee eddie

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The problem is this.

Although is is fairly simple to automate a plane's Take-Off.

We have, as yet, no way of seeing that there are no obstructions on the Runway.

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Woolwell

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wee eddie - that is the first time I have seen fairly simple in connection with aircraft automation. These systems are normally complex with often 2 back up systems.

Ground radar will "see" if an aircraft or vehicle is obstructing a runway. ATC procedures are very strict and in UK highly professional.

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ams4127

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But will it see a flock of seagulls crossing the threshold, in the line of flight?

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VCR97

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Woolwell. Thanks. I missed that link.

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Forum Editor

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ams4127

"...will it see a flock of seagulls crossing the threshold, in the line of flight?"

Yes, it will.

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Forum Editor

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Quickbeam

"There's no reason whatsoever why they can't operate on a normal schedule,"

But there is, as has already been explained.

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