Even though Kashmir has never witnessed such dense fog lately, an outdated Instrumentation Landing System (ILS) at Srinagar International Airport is considered one of the main reason for the cancellation of flights in the Valley for the past four days.
An airport official, wishing anonymity, told Rising Kashmir that in comparison to other airports in India, Srinagar airport has the most outdated ILS at place, thus making it impossible for the flights to land in foggy condition.
To prove his point, officials said in Srinagar there is Category 1 ILS that requires at least 1200-metre visibility for an airplane to land, while in airports like in New Delhi Category 3 ILS is installed which requires only up to 100-metre visibility to make landing possible.
The ILS provides precision guidance to an aircraft approaching the runway to enable its safe landing when visibility is poor, a condition common in Kashmir during winters.
"It was only few years back that the authorities had installed ILS at Srinagar airport but it is outdated and can't work in a dense fog,” the official said.
Flight operations at the Srinagar airport remained suspended for the fourth straight day on Tuesday as all flights to and fro Kashmir valley were cancelled due to poor visibility caused by heavy fog, officials said.
An official of the Airport Authority of India (AAI) said the visibility at the airport was very poor due to heavy fog and the conditions were not suitable for flight operations.
“The visibility at the airport has been hovering around 100 to 500 metres only while the required visibility is 1000 to 1200 metres. So, all flights for the day were cancelled," the official said.
Talking to Rising Kashmir, Director Srinagar Airport Santosh Dokay while acknowledging an old version of ILS at the airport said there was no need to update the system, owing to moderate fog conditions in the Valley in comparison to other states of India like in New Delhi.
"We usually don't witness such dense fog in Kashmir as we are experiencing this time around. So, Category 1 ILS was sufficient here," Dokay said.
However, Dokay said the authorities have now taken note of the severe fog conditions and would submit the report to the higher officials for the upgradation of ILS.
The airport is under the direct operational control of the Indian Air Force.
The control of air traffic and that of the landing strip – including the facilities of fire-fighting and crash activities - is with the IAF while the terminal building, where the passengers check-in, is taken care of by the Airport Authority of India.
The AAI also controls the apron area (where an aircraft is parked) but the airspace control is with the IAF.