An airline pilot believes the number of flights turning back after landing at Ronaldsway in bad weather is partly due to a lack of investment at the airport.
Steve Bridson, former captain of Manx Airlines and former Flybe pilot manager at Ronaldsway, said “the main problem is the lack of approach lighting on the runway”.
The evening flight from Gatwick to Ronaldsway EasyJet has been hijacked three times in the past month and canceled before departure on one occasion.
Earlier this month there were also two other diversions, a Loganair flight from Liverpool and a Netjets charter flight from Manchester.
In providing this information, the government noted that poor visibility is only one meteorological reason why an aircraft may not land, and that there are also “other meteorological reasons as well as operational and techniques”.
Unless the lighting system can be improved, Mr Bridson said the situation with low visibility disturbances will not improve.
Last month, the Manx Independent reported on the plight of Jenni Garret (sister of former Chief Minister Howard Quayle), who found herself stranded in Gatwick when her delayed flight was canceled due to fog at Ronaldsway, letting her pay for her own one-night stay. and new flights, before claiming compensation from EasyJet.
Mr Bridson described the current approach light system as officially classed as ‘basic’, having been downgraded from ‘intermediate’ when the approach lights were removed to make way for the runway extension in 2009 .
He explained: “This means that pilots now need visibility of at least 1,000 meters to be legally allowed to make a landing attempt, whereas before the lights were cut out it was 700 meters. .”
“With the approach lights as they are now, in very low cloud conditions, even though the required visibility is reported, when you reach the decision height of 200 feet above the runway, you cannot see any approach lights and a missed approach is mandatory.
“Nothing will really change until the approach lighting system is improved.”
The pilot showed two contrasting images of the approach lights here and those in Manchester, taken from a “decision height” of 200 feet (the altitude at which pilots must decide whether to proceed with a landing or abandoning one) to demonstrate the difference that full lighting reduces the chance of being able to land.
Mr Bridson even created a scale image of the Manchester track superimposed next to Ronaldsway, to show how his basic system lacks the amount of lights extending from the end of the track, which which makes it much less visible on approach.
He explained that since 200 feet is also the point at which pilots must be able to see the runway or its lights in order to continue landing legally, having more of these lights visible will increase the chances of this requirement being met. satisfied.
Mr Bridson continued: “The cost and inconvenience of interrupted travel due to diversions or flight cancellations in low visibility conditions could be significantly reduced if approach lighting were improved.
“Money has been spent on frankly unnecessary projects, the 300 meter widening of the track last year being a prime example – a turning circle at the end of the track would have met the requirement at a fraction of the price.
“The airport provides a vital link to adjacent islands – where possible it should be equipped to match the capabilities of the aircraft and crews using it.
“He’s way below in that regard at the moment.”
“Let’s hope the new airport manager puts this issue at the top of his to-do list.”
Paul Clarkson took over as interim airport manager last October, succeeding Anne Reynolds who had held the post for 14 years.
When asked for a response to the allegation that excessive flight disruption was caused in part by inadequate landing facilities, a government spokesperson said: ‘Work is underway to allow more flights to land during periods of limited visibility”.
“The current Instrument Landing System (ILS) operates up to CAT I where a decision to land is not less than 200ft and when the visibility is not less than 800m.
“A project is underway to replace the ILS and also install Instrumented Runway Visual Range (IRVR) equipment.
“This will reduce the visibility criteria from 800m to 550m for CAT I.”
Landing systems are categorized, with higher categories allowing pilots to make landings at lower sightlines.
The statement provided to the reviewer continued: “Achieving greater flexibility via CAT II or IIIA/B/C would require significantly different infrastructure at the airport.
“This would require significant investment and would need to be carefully weighed against the number of flights affected each year.”