How to

26 January 2017

Freezing Fog Rolls In, Halts Departing Flights

Img: Geograph 
For the past couple days, the UK has been in the midst of masses of freezing fog. Those safely confined to the country or pounding the pavement of villages have little to worry about as walking allows enjoyment of fog’s mystic and layered beauty. However, operating machinery through fog poses a number of difficulties. Some stretches of land feature fog so thick that it’s a hazard to drive through; on pops the rear fog light with the hope that cars ahead will do the same. On Monday, the day with the heaviest fog, 31 collisions were reported in the morning; that’s six times more than an average weekday.

Check out these safety tips for driving in fog.

Concentrating the most on 23 January, the fog’s descent was enough to stop 100 of the 1,300 flights scheduled out of London Heathrow. The next day, Tuesday, a spokesperson said, “persistent freezing fog across the south east has reduced visibility at Heathrow again today.” Following that, it was made clear that Heathrow was operating massively behind schedule with delays persisting into the late week. As the airport must make up for those 100 stopped flights, prioritising delayed passengers, other passengers are warned to expect a setback: “With Heathrow operating at more than 99 per cent capacity, there are no gaps in the schedule that can be used for delayed flights … some passengers may experience disruption to their journeys.” Unhappy news for Heathrow airport commuters where normal operations see a plane taking off or landing every 45 seconds.

Other airports in the area experienced similar cancellations, including Gatwick, London City, Stansted, and Southampton. Gatwick publicly announced that their port would be experiencing delays due to “air traffic control restrictions.” London City airport cancelled 15 flights, delaying several others.

The Met Office issued a severe weather warning on Monday for London, south-east England and parts of south-west England, stating that the conditions would persist until midday Tuesday. In Northolt, 10 miles from Heathrow, temperatures were as low as 6.2°C (21°F) and visibility on the tarmac was just 100 metres. Spokesperson Grahame Madge cut to the quick: “We are expecting these conditions to last for a few days to come.”

How is Fog Such a Serious Problem?

Some angry passengers might be questioning why something as common as fog can incapacitate a technological wonder (i.e. airplane). Well, flying a plane is similar to driving a car in that you must have a certain amount of visibility to be safe. With decreased visibility, more space must be put between planes equating to delays. There are mechanisms in place to safely guide planes through fog, but landing is where the problem lies. In low visibility protocols (LVPs) a plane must land and clear the runway before another is allowed to land. This increases the required distance between landing planes. In Heathrow, the spacing increases from three to six miles. 

Jacqui Litvan

Jacqui Litvan, wielding a bachelor's degree in English, strives to create a world of fantasy amidst the ever-changing landscape of military life. Attempting to become a writer, she fuels herself with coffee (working as a barista) and music (spending free time as a raver).