This Kashmiri Pilot Defied Poor Visibility To Land Plane In Srinagar

Kapil Raina

POOR visibility recently grounded close to 100 flights at Srinagar’s Sheikh ul-Alam International Airport, but five passenger planes still managed to land and fly back to their destinations.

Those flights arrived on January 5 when stranded passengers created ruckus—mostly online—over the “fair-weather” nature facilities at the international airport.

Among those who flew passenger planes amid inclement weather was Kashmiri pilot, Kapil Raina.

He managed to land his 825-826 Air India flight in Srinagar and flew back to New Delhi.

“Flying during bad weather needs willingness and experience,” said the veteran pilot with 35 years of flying experience.

“I love to take challenges because I know the pain that people go through when flights get cancelled.”

Trained to tackle tough situations, Raina was one of the first pilots who flew plane to Leh and volunteered for trainings.

“If you have a passion for flying and experience,” he said, “you can do it.”

In a candid chat with Kashmir Observer, the Kashmiri pilot talks about the need for the technicalities for making all flights possible at Srinagar “international airport”.

Why grounded flight is becoming every winter story in Kashmir now?

Well, one has to blame poor visibility created by western disturbances for it. This weather phenomenon creates low pressure area and causes mist, snow, sand storms, etc.

In many airports of the world, especially those in Europe having similar weather patterns, they’ve such facilities where landing becomes possible during poor visibility.

But unfortunately, we still don’t have such facilities at Srinagar airport.

But despite this “poor visibility”, five flights still managed to land and takeoff from Srinagar. How was that possible?

See, there was a terminal area forecast. That means visibility was an issue. It was given between 13:30 to 15:00 hours.

But I was clear that my flight would land for sure. So, I told my teams not to cancel the flight but reschedule it.

How did you manage to land your flight on January 5 when others couldn’t?

If you’ve a passion for flying and experience, you can do it. It’s about willingness as well.

I love to take challenges because I know the pain that people go through when flights get cancelled.

For last 35 years, I’ve been mostly flying through the challenging aerial routes: Leh-Srinagar/ Jammu – Srinagar route.

Back in the day, I went to Leh when no one else was volunteering for it. The cold desert doesn’t make it a cakewalk for pilots. But I used to take challenges head-on and fly even if the weather wouldn’t permit us.

How much visibility a pilot needs for landing?

It varies from airport to airport. Minimum is 800 metres depending on the approach. It also depends on particular airfield.

In Delhi, for instance, I need 550 meters. In Srinagar, I need 1000 meters.

Earlier, it was 1500 meters. Then we modified it through some test flights and all.

Will the much-talked about CAT-II instrument landing system (ILS) help in visibility?

Yes, it will surely help in landing and somehow ease out this grounded flight situation.

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Auqib Javeed

Auqib Javeed is special correspondent with Kashmir Observer and tweets @AuqibJaveed

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