back to article China's 'Airpocalypse' forces pilots to learn BLIND landings in smog

China's air pollution is so bad, the country's Civil Aviation Administration has ordered all pilots of domestic flights to be trained in low-visibility landings. It's hoped this will defeat the smog that has lowered the on-time flight performance at Beijing Capital International Airport to 18 per cent – the "the worst record …


This topic is closed for new posts.
  1. Khaptain Silver badge

    Obvious question

    What are they doing about the root cause oif the problem, the Smog?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Obvious question

      A bloody lot more than any other nation:

      1. Khaptain Silver badge

        Re: Obvious question

        Upon reading that webpage it appears that they do not know how to tackle the problem !

        Quote :

        The concrete goals of the air pollution control plan are not clear, though Zhang Gong, deputy mayor of Beijing, has previously said that the central government requires his city to cut levels of PM2.5 (particulate matter up to 2.5µm in diameter) by 25% by 2017, compared with 2012.

        ‘While it is very necessary to increase efforts, more research should be done to support policies. Up until now, we still do not know exactly which factors are causing smog in Beijing,’ Ye tells Chemistry World.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Obvious question

        "A bloody lot more than any other nation:"

        Maybe, but that's because they didn't spend anything on it at all at a time when they were building all these factories in the first place. And they're now discovering on a national scale that building cheap is a false economy. Far better to get it right first time than to have to build it two or three times.

        1. bigtimehustler

          Re: Obvious question

          You mean, like all nations as they become industrialised? I think you'll find Britain and the US didn't do anything about it during the industrial revolution, people used to die in London all the time because of it. No country has yet started industrialisation at the clean end of the scale.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Obvious question

            The thing is that when the UK industrialised we didn't know about the problems that would be caused and had to develop solutions to the complex problems of pollution from scratch. Countries who are industrialising now can see the successes and mistakes that we made and learn from them. They seem to have opted for the bang it up quick and cheap, sort it out later option. The trouble with sort it out later options is that whatever needs sorting out, only ever gets sorted out when it's a major problem.

            1. bigtimehustler

              Re: Obvious question

              Yes, but they also still put off by the price of doing it differently. Are you trying to tell me that when factory owners and the government saw people dying in the streets from the smog they didn't know it was becoming to be a problem? Yet it continued and got worse for many years. Ultimately no economy can at present afford to switch to completely clean energy, it costs too much. One of the reasons most of out industry has moved elsewhere is because of labour costs and energy costs here, a lot of the energy costs are down to the need to deliver greener fuel here. Basically China is just making use of its 100 or so years of pollution, the same way we did when we get ahead in the early days.

        2. This post has been deleted by its author

        3. Wzrd1

          Re: Obvious question

          "Maybe, but that's because they didn't spend anything on it at all at a time when they were building all these factories in the first place."

          Do you mean like the UK did, getting the Great Smog? Or the US did, getting nationwide smog?

          Nations grow, economies grow, industrialization begins, mistakes are made.

          It's just a shame that the PRC repeats the same mistakes we did so long ago.

          I'm a bit too young to remember the London smog mess, but I am old enough to remember people dying in the US from smog.

          Both of our nations learned, China will learn.

          I do chuckle, with a bit of horror, over the PRC having to train pilots in instrument landing systems. Something every western commercial pilot is required to learn before considering carrying passengers!

          That makes one ponder whether one should permit a PRC commercial aircraft into airports known to have fog, rain, snow or other poor visibility!

          Which happens to be every airport...

      3. Thorne Kontos 1

        Re: Obvious question

        The Americans thought after off-shoring all their manufacturing to China, they would then also be forced to buy pollution emission equipment. The Chinese were of course, notably puzzled over this line of thinking.

        In a related press statement, China announced it was removing the one child per family ban.

    2. Katie Saucey

      Re: Obvious question

      At least they're admitting to the people they could have a small problem. Although according to CCTV, every lung-destroying-cloud-o-death has a silver lining! Here is their lists of benefits:

      -It unifies the Chinese people.

      -It makes China more equal.

      -It raises citizen awareness of the cost of China's economic development.

      -It makes people funnier.

      -It makes people more knowledgeable (of things like meteorology and the English word 'haze').

      Choke on that you clean air loving hippies.

    3. John Savard

      Re: Obvious question

      There was an article here just the other day about how they were using a supercomputer to analyze the problem and help them find the best solution. But the answer to the obvious question, are they trying the obvious solution of imposing tough new pollution standards, and shutting down every factory that doesn't meet them until that is corrected, is no.

      Given how many people that would throw out of work, in a poor county, I suppose that's understandable.

    4. Thorne Kontos 1

      Re: Obvious question

      They banished Smaug to the lonely mountain...

  2. MR J

    Ford is going to help, they are targeting china for the new Mustang!

    That EcoCar should help everyone.

  3. imanidiot Silver badge

    Note to travelers

    If you ever find yourself in a city filled with smog, know that those surgical masks often seen worn by chinese locals do bubkiss to cut down on particulate inhalation. Very few of them are intended to be used to keep the wearer breathing stuff IN. Most of them keep the wearer from exhaling moisture droplets and other nasties OUT onto objects that don't agree with them.

    There ARE special masks designed for very small particulate like smog and asbestos, but they are far more expensive and look different.

    1. Mike Brown

      Re: Note to travelers

      could you not just use them inside out?

    2. MrXavia

      Re: Note to travelers

      I always thought it was funny they wear surgical masks, designed to stop you breathing bad germs onto others, so a great idea if it is you that is ill... but not designed to avoid you breathing in toxins/bacterium...

      I carry 5 disposable respirators in my car, enough for all passengers, and a second set in my first aid kit (as I never go anywhere without it)... I need to know I can protect my family in the event of dangerous pollution OR a viral outbreak.....

    3. DropBear

      Re: Note to travelers

      Funny, those seem to be surgical masks indeed. Well, in my experience hardware stores do carry definitely inexpensive disposable worker's masks which seem to be designed for this sort of thing. The better ones (still dirt cheap, just bought some myself) even seem to have simple flap valves to ease breathing out...

    4. Chris 244

      Re: Note to travelers

      Surgical masks are useless for this task. They only reduce droplet exposure. For particulate matter you need an N95 mask at a minimum (some of which look like surgical masks), and a P100 if you are dealing with truly nasty stuff (e.g. asbestos). P100 are full respirators, and ironically the cheap ones at Home Depot are made in China.

  4. Tromos

    Don't travel on a Chinese airline

    "The training is very expensive, and the low visibility was not a normal condition".

    Yes, training is expensive. Single engine failure or hydraulics problems etc., etc. aren't normal conditions either. I'd like to be certain that any plane I boarded had a pilot well versed with abnormal conditions.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Don't travel on a Chinese airline

      Hope any airline pilot is already trained in low-visibility landing... maybe it meant "we have to keep their training actual" - because you usually keep your skills sharpen for emergency situations in a simulator, and simulator time costs. Anyway, given the conditions in China - even without a simulator pilots will become very skilled in low-visibility landing anyway...

  5. Steve Todd

    It doesn't matter how well the pilots are trained

    In order to handle low visibility landings the airport needs a category IIIa (30 metre decision height, 200 metres visibility) or b (0-15metre DH, 75 metres visibility) ILS system, and the aircraft need an Automatic Landing System. They also still need to be able to see well enough to taxi (that would be class IIIc, but no one has that yet).

  6. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward


    The photo of the plane on the apron is horrifying. The exhaust is probably cleaner than the air going in.

    1. Martin Budden

      Re: Wow!

      The exhaust is probably cleaner than the air going in.

      So, the solution to the smog problem is to have more planes?

  7. Christoph

    A few hundred meters? Luxury!

    " smog cuts visibility down to a few hundred metres"

    So what would they have done in London in the 50s when visibility could be a few feet or less? The stories of blind people guiding sighted people are true.

  8. John Smith 19 Gold badge

    IIRC the "Clean Air Act" and smokeless coal made a *very* big difference

    Advanced tech in the 1950's

    Not so in the 2nd the decade of the 21st century.

  9. TeeCee Gold badge

    Not just the landing.

    A colleague told me this one from many years ago, when Milan was almost perpetually fogbound and blind landing was a very new-fangled thing. Fog at Milan usually meant a diversion and then a bus ride from hell back to Milan.

    She was on a BA flight to Milan and a very smug pilot spoke on the cabin tannoy: "Ladies and Gentlemen. Those of you who fly this route regularly will be aware that Milan is often fogbound and today is no exception. However, this aircraft is equipped with the new automated landing system and Milan also now has the necessary equipment, so we will be landing on time. Thank you for flying BA."

    The plane descended into the very thick murk, landed, rolled out and stopped. Out of the windows was visible only a uniform grey blankness. After a few minutes the, now somewhat less smug, pilot piped up; "Ladies and Gentlemen, Those of you who can see out of a window may have noticed that you cannot see anything at all. Well I am sorry to say that it's exactly the same up here and while I have my taxi instructions, I can't see the taxiways. Control are sending a follow me truck and I'll keep you posted."

    Fifteen minutes later, the now rather harassed sounding pilot says; "I've been told that there is a follow me truck 50 metres ahead of the aircraft. I can't see it. The airport is working on a solution to the problem, but we may be here a while."

    Four hours later, a truck with a searchlight on it turned up from the nearest military installation and they followed that in. This meant that the passengers were later than if they had diverted......

This topic is closed for new posts.

Other stories you might like