Upgrade landing system of Shahjalal International Airport
Aircraft operations face difficulty during winters in most countries and Bangladesh is no exception. While in the West, the main impediment is heavy snow and blizzard, in South Asia, the problem is mainly from dense fog which impairs visibility. The common culture in our country is to either divert a plane to the nearest possible airport, usually Kolkata, or allow the plane to circle for some time to see if the fog clears.
However, these are hardly modern day solutions and result in disruptions in arrival and departure of flights. Unfortunately, at Shahjalal the ground crew and air traffic control have to rely on the ability to see the aircraft they are communicating with. Due to the absence of an Instrument Landing System, ILS, hundreds of flights are either delayed or diverted.
The problem with Shahjalal is that the airport has Category-1 ILS, which means without proper visibility, the air traffic control tower cannot give permission for landing. As per aviation experts, for ILS-1, an aircraft requires 2,000-2,800 metres of visibility to land, which is quite difficult during foggy weather. If the airports are upgraded to the ILS-2, visibility can be 600-1,200 metres, which is quite comfortable for pilots.
In such a situation, upgrading the landing system is essential because the winter will last until the end of February and the country will face another bout of cold spell at the end of January. The modern landing will also be needed in the monsoon when heavy rainfall also creates the same problems as the fog. Therefore, the sooner the system is installed the better for passenger safety.
To take the argument to another angle, in Bangladesh, the common tendency is to wake up to a hazardous situation after a disaster occurs. This has happened countless times in the past when an apathetic attitude of the authority resulted in disasters with loss of human lives.
Needs be reminded, the 1984 Biman crash at the aircraft also happened during rain when the pilot mistook the swampy water area to be the landing strip. Dithering on airport related security is tantamount to playing with death and keeping that in mind, the move has to be immediate to improve safety features.