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Flights go Calcutta way

Bhubaneswar, Jan. 16: Heavy fog and poor visibility forced Biju Patnaik Airport authorities to divert flights for the second time, in the past fortnight.

Two scheduled flights were diverted to Calcutta, as the visibility remained only up to 50 metres in the morning hours. Safe landing is possible only if the visibility at the airport is more than 800 metres.

The first flight to be diverted today was Mumbai-Bhubaneswar direct flight, Jet Airways (9W2061), which was scheduled to arrive here at 8.30am. It was diverted to Calcutta. The flight returned back and landed at 11.33am, when the weather conditions improved.

The second was the Delhi-Bhubaneswar IndiGo (6E257), which was scheduled to arrive here at 9.10am, but asked to go to Calcutta. It returned to Bhubaneswar at 11.45am.

Airport director Sharad Kumar said: “With weather condition not so good this winter, we are opting for diversion to the nearby airports as the visibility is low here during the morning hours.”

Sources said that on January 4, a chartered flight from Rourkela was sent back to the Steel City. The small aircraft could not land after making rounds of the airport for about 15 minutes. In December last year, too, similar conditions had forced officials of the Airports Authority of India to divert flights from the city airport to Calcutta.

While on December 10, the AI 9601 New Delhi-Port Blair flight (via Bhubaneswar) was diverted to Calcutta, the next day 9W 2061 Mumbai-Bhubaneswar flight was diverted to the same airport as the visibility level was too low here.

Officer on special duty at Biju Patnaik Airport H.J. Parmar said: “The aircraft operates with a particular fuel plan. In case of difficult weather condition, if they are forced to circle the destination airport, they calculate the time to be spent on making the rounds or just head towards the nearest airport. This depends on the availability of the aviation turbine fuel in the craft as in some cases even at diverted airport, the aircraft might have to make rounds because of lack of runaway space for landing.”

A 24X7 emergency airport operation has helped the flight operations at Calcutta airport by allowing two passenger aircrafts on December 21 and 29, respectively, to land here because of Calcutta’s dense fog. The operation, which started on December 15, will continue till February 15.

Officials of the Indian Meteorological Department today said that in the morning hours, the visibility level was around 50 metres. Director of the Met department in Bhubaneswar S.C. Sahoo said: “The dense fog is created because of the slow air circulation at ground-level. The moisture generated from the sea is not being pushed away by the slow air circulation at lower altitude. On the other hand, pollution level has become another cause for the fog as the suspended particles in the air attract moisture and cause fog.”

The official said the dense fog conditions might continue till January 20.