Preparing for Fog

December 2, 2008 8:45:24 PM PST
Thick fog can bring air traffic to a standstill. Fresno's Airport has the advanced technology to reduce delays, and keep planes moving. But the problem can be much worse at the Valley's smaller airports.Visalia Airport had to cancel a flight out to Ontario Tuesday morning and another delayed Tuesday afternoon. There is a lot of technologically-advanced equipment to land a plane when the weather can make it hard to see. Visalia Airport has some of those tools. A lack of that kind of equipment can put smaller airports at a standstill in the fog.

Fog delays across the state caused this Visalia flight to take off nearly one hour after its scheduled departure time. The flight is the first to go to Ontario since the fog rolled in on Sunday.

Ken Flaherty said, "Sunday night I got a call from the airline to say that the morning flight was fogged in & wouldn't leave and that they'd have to put me on the 2pm flight."

This passenger, who also happens to be an air traffic controller at a small airport in San Diego, suffered two more cancellations before finally being able to leave. He says smaller airports don't always have the equipment to handle foggy weather.

Flaherty said, "In fact the airport that I work at in El Cajon down in San Diego doesn't have a good instrument landing system to get below the clouds even if they're up at 1,000 feet you can get below that cloud layer."

Flaherty constantly checks the internet for weather and visibility updates. At the Tulare Airport, which handles mostly single engine planes and helicopters, the fog can have a detrimental effect. The airport requires one-mile of visibility for a plane to take off.

Tulare Airport Manager Milt Stowe said, "Yesterday we had 0-0 which is zero visibility and zero take off and landings and you can see once the fog comes in it really wreaks havoc on our airport."

From Sunday night till Tuesday morning, no flights took off from Tulare. While the airport has a GPS-monitoring system which provides 24-hour weather updates, it's up to the pilot to monitor local weather to see if it's safe to fly. The fog has sometimes hindered flights from coming in during Tulare's busiest time of year-The World Ag Expo.

Stowe said, "And it has come in on the Ag show and its hampered in sometimes they've landed in Bakersfield and driven up."

City officials are planning on expanding the airport and getting more advanced landing equipment. While Visalia Airport uses tools to land a plane during inclement weather, they can only use the system if visibility is at least a half-mile.

Visalia Airport Manager Mario Cifuentes said, "If it gets to that point we'll see some delays and normally we see stoppage if we fall below a half mile visibility and yesterday was the worst of it for the next couple days."

Visalia Airport expects more delays this week if the fog keeps up which is what weather systems are reporting.

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