CHENNAI: Tuesday was a strange day for Air Traffic Control (ATC). As it had struggled with fog linked delays and visual issues for the last few days, they were hopeful that they would have clear skies from now on .
When dawn broke a little before 6 am, they actually believed that they were in the clear, until the fog came swirling down at 6.20 am with a vengeance. “The Met department said that there was a possibility of fog, but we had operated early flights to Port Blair and other places, when it suddenly became misty after 6 am,” said an ATC official.
Flight movement was then summarily suspended, the usual wait-and-watch game began - planes were diverted to Hyderabad and Bangalore as has been customary, during these unclear times. An Air India plane from Muscat and an AirAsia plane from Kuala Lumpur were among the planes that were diverted. Close to 20 flights were set back as well, and passengers were forced to cram into the waiting rooms till their boarding call blared out on the PA system.
A little before 9 am, the visibility improved beyond 500 metres and planes were cleared to take off and land. In a cramped schedule, to ensure that delays did not extend into the NO-FLY period every Tuesday afternoon (for runway resurfacing) - ATC stepped it up a notch. “All the diverted planes were allowed to return and land, while the ones taking off were on the taxi track, just awaiting clearance. Things went smoothly after that,” he added.