It 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.