Smog hits operations at airport

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FLIGHTS HIT: A display board at the Chennai airport on Wednesday shows a series of delays.
FLIGHTS HIT: A display board at the Chennai airport on Wednesday shows a series of delays.

P. Oppili

CHENNAI: The travel plans of hundreds of passengers went haywire as flight operations at the Chennai airport were disrupted for nearly three hours on Wednesday morning owing to heavy smog.

Airports Authority of India (AAI) officials said a total of 28 flights, including a dozen arriving flights, were affected due to the problem, caused by the ritualistic burning of waste-material in the city and its suburbs on ‘Bhogi’ festival day. The authorities diverted three flights in the international sector and two in the domestic sector to other airports.

AAI sources said the problem began around 6.30 a.m., when the visibility level dropped below normal. Under normal conditions, 800 metres of visibility would be ideal for landing and take-off of most aircraft. For smaller jets the required visibility level would be 1,200 m and above.

However, on Wednesday morning the visibility level was only 300 m and no landing or take-off could be allowed. The problem persisted till 9.20 a.m.

Three flights of Oman Air and Emirates were diverted to Bangalore, while a Saudi Arabian airlines flight was diverted to Colombo.

In the domestic sector, two flights of Kingfisher, which came from Port Blair, and a Deccan 360 cargo flight were diverted to Bangalore.

Normalcy was restored at around 9.20 a.m. A senior AAI officer said on ‘Bhogi’ day in the last couple of years the burning of waste was less than it was this year.

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