China Demands Training For Pilots To Land In The Blind Due To Pollution

220px-Beijing_smog_comparison_August_2005It appears that China’s runaway pollution may be good for the nation’s defense but is less helpful for airplanes trying to find cities like Beijing. As a result, the country is demanding special training for pilots to land in pollution, or so-called low-visibility landings.

I have landed in Beijing in prior years with a sense of foreboding in seeing the thick gray shroud of pollution over the city. You take a gulp upon realizing that you are going to spend the next couple weeks in that polluted soup. It has however gotten even worse and flights are now being canceled or delayed due to the thickness of China’s air pollution. The solution? Now, not environmental protection but better pilots who can land in the blind.

Indeed, they must on some days land with visibility reduced to a matter of a few hundred yards. The Chinese have been diverting to other airports but pollution is now a problem even in cities like Shanghai that are nearer the coast. When such flights are delayed or redirected, the official explanation is generally weather rather than pollution.

The new regulations are for domestic flights which fall under Chinese jurisdiction. Those pilots will now have to use auto-landing to descend into the clouds of pollution.

With the constant food scandals, I would be interested to see how the pollution has affected tourism in China. I personally have little desire to return to the country after seeing the pollution worsen through the years. You end up coughing like a two-pack a day smoker while trying to see landmarks obscured by a constant layer of smog.

By the way, China’s smog is now so great that you can actually see it from space. No doubt the same Chinese media that reported that smog is good for national defense will now say that it discourages alien invaders.


7 thoughts on “China Demands Training For Pilots To Land In The Blind Due To Pollution”

  1. O S

    i’ve heard the chinese are having trouble building a turbine engine that will hold together (even licensed russian copies). wonder what this soup does to the bearings and blades of the turbines.

  2. Flying into IMC (Instrument Meteorological Conditions) is not anything to be taken lightly. Additionally, an unwary pilot can wander into IMC easily, and without even knowing how he or she got there. A pilot trained only for VFR (Visual Flight Rules) who gets into IMC has 240 seconds to live, on average.

    The instrument rating is difficult to get, and staying proficient requires constant practice with an instructor. It brings the issue of Continuing Education to a whole different level. No one ever died–along with a whole bunch of other people–because they didn’t keep up with their CLE or CME on a regular basis.

  3. There is going to have to be an upgrade to the Instrument Landing System there. Gamma Rays will be needed soon to penetrate the smog.

  4. There is a movement in WA to prevent the establishment of coal exporting terminals due in large part to the pollution problem in China, which relies heavily on power generation and home heating/cooking using coal products.

    It makes sense when considering we are downwind.

  5. My college-professor father’s been to China several times in the last 5-10 years. His flights have always been into Shanghai, with connections to Wuhan, but he’s told me that flying into Shanghai reminds him of flying into LAX or Orange County back in the 70s. Yuck.

    And it’s not just the air pollution that bothers him; he’s a professor of agriculture/microbiology with a strong focus on food handling, storage and safety, and he’s reluctant to eat most foods when he’s over there. He relies mainly on fresh fruit that can be washed or peeled, as well as cooked rice (pretty easy to find there), but when it comes to meat in China, he won’t touch it unless he sees it slaughtered or knows for a fact that it’s freshly killed and butchered. He also takes a stash of cereal and granola bars with him for his trips, just in case he has trouble finding (relatively) safe food to eat.

  6. “The solution? Now, not environmental protection but better pilots who can land in the blind.” – JT

    Same here in Amurka where they want to do away with the EPA which did away with the LA syndrome, which Beijing now is suffering from.

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