Fog disrupts flights from Heathrow and London City Airports

  Forum Editor 23:34 20 Nov 2011

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?

  TopCat® 01:40 21 Nov 2011

Well, they perfected the automatic landing system and the instrument landing systems some years ago, so I would have thought that a take-off in fog system should be possible with the right people and resources employed. One further problem would arise however and that would be in getting taxiing aircraft safely to and from the runways. TC.

  [email protected] 01:56 21 Nov 2011

Category 3 instrument landing systems permit landings with very low visibility, but as TopCat has pointed out, if the pilot cannot see the ground then they will be unable to taxi to and from the runway.

As far as I know, there is no official auto-takeoff system that would ensure the plane remains aligned with the runway during its takeoff roll, hence in poor visibility if the plane was mis-aligned by even one degree or so, without proper yaw control it would soon end up on the grass!

  daz60 05:09 21 Nov 2011

Don't know anything about aviation but i do remember this,in heavy fog.

Worst Aircraft Disaster

i am sure they would not like a repeat.

  birdface 08:58 21 Nov 2011

It used to be a plane landing every 50 seconds at Heathrow but not sure if the take off schedule is the same.

Hard enough driving in foggy conditions so I would imagine landing and taking off in a plane on those conditions would be a nightmare.

Today we have night glasses that can let you see in the dark so maybe something like that which could let you see in foggy conditions would be ideal.

A bit of snow or fog and they all grind to a halt,Like the FE states surely in this day and age they could come up with something that would work.

  john bunyan 09:33 21 Nov 2011

With talk of a long term move of Heathrow to the Thames estuary, maybe the frequency of fog should be studied as part of the investigation.

  morddwyd 09:36 21 Nov 2011

All things are possible, but would the airlines be willing to pay the extra charges?

As we saw last winter, airlines/airports (it's the airlines, i.e. the passengers, who pay in the end) are reluctant to invest even in simple things like snowploughs because they don't get used very often and simply represent money not earning interest.

How much more reluctant would they be to spend the sort of money needed to equip every aeroplane with its own "fogplough".

The laws of physics demand that fog dispersal requires heat and/or wind, both of which which be prohibitively expensive to produce artificially on the scale required.

  bjh 09:39 21 Nov 2011

I had assumed that it was a knock-on effect from the density of flights - that they'd simply not be able to take off/land as many aircraft as safely... they'd need longer gaps between flights.

I did also wonder if some of the flights are cancelled or diverted because some planes may not have up-to-date equipment for coping with the fog, even if (if!) Heathrow does.

I'd assume (always dangerous) that if such a fog-landing system was possible, it would be in place, but only if it met safety requirements and could be done profitably.

I suspect that the most dangerous part of the RAF flights 60 years ago may not have been the take-off and landing, even if surrounded by fog and burning fuel!

  morddwyd 10:42 21 Nov 2011

FIDO was only ever used for landing, not take off, and then only in life or death emergency, for crippled or out of fuel aircraft which has no other options except crashing.

Only certain designated airfields had it, and as has been said, it was phenomenally expensive on fuel, and if any damaged aircraft happened to be leaking fuel (only high octane Avgas in those days) the outcome was usually poor.

  interzone55 10:57 21 Nov 2011

Thermal Imaging cameras can see straight through fog, smoke etc, so a grid of low current heating wires similar to those in car's rear window would glow like neon to a thermal camera.

We've just started stocking these cameras and they're fantastic - when set up correctly they can even read number plates as they can distinguish between the reflected heat from the black letters & the white background.

Whilst they're quite expensive (touching 5 figures for anything but the basic models) I'm sure they're a drop in the ocean compared to a new A380.

  Woolwell 11:15 21 Nov 2011

It's the time taken to clear the runway this blog Finnair Blog and this site help explain Federal Aviation. I have experienced fog in an aircraft not equipped to land in it but I also have had experience of a severe dust storm and that was far worse as it potentially damages the engines. Remember "time to spare ... fly by air".

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