Residents wearing face masks use their mobile phones on a pedestrian overpass on a hazy day at the Pudong financial area in Shanghai, 6 December 2013. Photo: Aly Song / Reuters

By Ben Blanchard; Editing by Michael Perry
11 December 2013

BEIJING  (Reuters) – Chinese authorities have told pilots who fly to Beijing they must be qualified to land their aircraft in the low visibility bought about by smog, state media said on Thursday, as the government tries to reduce flight delays due to pollution.

Beginning January 1, pilots flying from the country's 10 busiest airports into the Chinese capital must be qualified to use an instrument landing system on days when smog reduces visibility to around 400 meters (1,315 feet), the official China Daily said, citing China's civil aviation regulator.

"It is part of a series of measures the administration took recently to raise the flights' on-time performance," the newspaper quoted an unnamed aviation official as saying.

Despite investing billions of dollars in new airports and advanced Western-built aircraft, China suffers a chronic problem with flight delays, partly because of the country's often wildly-fluctuating weather and partly because the military tightly controls most of China's airspace.

Chinese media frequently reports fights, attacks on airport and airline workers and passengers storming aircraft in response to delays and the poor way they are handled, and the government has demanded airlines and airports address the issue.

In recent years, smog has added to the problem of delays, especially in Beijing but also in other parts of the country like cosmopolitan business hub Shanghai.

"Considering the recent smog and haze has bought numerous troubles to air transport in eastern and southern regions, it seems necessary for authorities to ask pilots to improve their landing capability in low visibility," the China Daily quoted Ouyang Jie, a professor at Civil Aviation University of China, as saying. [more]

China tells pilots to improve landing skills to deal with Beijing smog

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