Many pilots flying scheduled airliners in China must become qualified to land in poor visibility if they want to fly to Beijing next year.
Starting on Jan 1, pilots of flights from the top 10 busiest airports to Beijing Capital International Airport must be qualified to land using an instrument-landing system on hazy days with visibility of around 400 meters, according to the Civil Aviation Administration of China.
"It is part of a series of measures the administration took recently to raise the flights' on-time performance," a source at the administration said on condition of anonymity.
Instrument-landing systems guide approaching aircraft through a combination of radio signals and, often, high-intensity lighting arrays to safe landings when visibility is poor due to fog, rain, or blowing snow. Pilots commonly use the system if visibility is less than 800 meters. Only a handful of airports in China, such as those in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xi'an, have such facilities.
Ouyang Jie, a professor of airport research at Civil Aviation University of China, said the move aims to handle flight delay problems created by the increasing occurrence of smog and haze in Chinese cities.
"Considering that the recent smog and haze has brought 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," he said.
Liu Jun, a spokesman for Shanghai-based Juneyao Airlines, said an instrument landing can only be achieved after the airport, airplane and pilot all meet specific requirements. It means in addition to training pilots, airlines and airports also need to check whether their aircraft and facilities match such requirements.
A senior pilot at China Southern said on condition of anonymity that it is not difficult for pilots to pass instrument-landing system tests. "The biggest concern for airlines and airports would be the cost of refitting their aircraft and airport facilities," he said.
About 80 per cent of the pilots at Spring Airlines, half of China Eastern and most of Juneyao Airlines pilots have received the training, media reports said.
Large parts of China have seen foggy or smoggy weather this month,which led to serious flight delays, grounding tens of thousands of passengers.