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Changshui once again closed by fog

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This past weekend thousands of travelers from around China were left stranded at Kunming's 18 month-old airport. Dense fog led to the cancellation of hundreds of flights into and out of the Spring City, leading to the implementation of "emergency measures" inside the airport terminal.

A heavy fog began to roll into the area around Kunming Changshui International Airport on the morning of November 30. Flight delays began a short time later. Postponements in turn caused a backlog of planes both on the tarmac waiting to take off and in the air waiting to land.

A steady stream of cancellations started Saturday shortly before noon and all flights were scratched as of 7pm. The airport was scheduled to handle a combined 680 in- and outbound flights. Of those, more than 500 were rerouted in the air or cancelled on the ground.

Local news reports declared the somewhat exact count of 9,237 people stranded at the airport. In the run-up to the mass cancellations, Changshui staff added 23 extra city buses to shuttle people into Kunming. Off-duty security, public relations personel and extra medical staff were also called in to assist those in need. More than 12,000 free meals were handed out as well.

Instructions regarding the situation were sent out to passengers on their way to the airport via micoblogging services, as well as broadcast on radio and television stations. Travelers stranded at the airport were reportedly eligible for flight vouchers or coupons for hotels, although how many people were compensated remains unclear. Businesses located inside airport terminals attempted to help out by giving away free tea and blankets.

News reports of this most recent Changshui mess repeatedly stressed that despite inconveniences caused by fog, both airport staff and stranded passengers were calm and orderly. This is perhaps due to what transpired the first time fog closed down the 33.5 billion yuan (US$5.4 billion) airport in January 2013.

At that time a similar number of passengers were stranded. However, information regarding cancellations and lodging options was poorly disseminated, leading to near riot conditions. People climbed atop ticket kiosks and screaming matches between staff and patrons became common. Exacerbating the situation, which occurred in the middle of winter, was the non-functioning airport heating system.

The situation on November 30 appears to have been handled a bit more professionally, and at least some flight services resumed as early as 11am the following day. One publication, attempting to put a positive spin on the weekend's events wrote: "Not only has the airport done better [this time], but from another perspective, travelers have become more civilized."

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Top image: Yunnan Net

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Sorry, poor reporting: "News reports of this most recent Changshui mess..."

Are you suggesting that somehow the airport could have controlled the fog/weather? Blaming airport authorities for something outside their control pushes into the realms of sensationalism journalism, I didn't really expect that from GoKM.

They should start shopping for front and rear fog lights to put on those planes

Not the airport staff's fault, perhaps, but the airport planners were apparently warned by locals that the area is prone to regular fog problems long before any building work started. So this will be one of many days of chaos to some.

I think the author is more making reference to the fact that before the new airport was built, the area up North was well known to have horrendous fog problems but they decided to put the airport in there regardless. The massive delays last year were just the first taste of the kind of problems you get when you put a multi-billion dollar installation in a perhaps less than suitable location (especially as Yunnan Gov. would like to make Kunming the air hub of Southeast Asia).

A bit late to the conversation...blobbles is quite right that I was vague regarding the inclusion of 'mess' in the sentence. Ocean and atwillden are also correct in recognizing what I was referencing. I should have been more specific in explaining the back story.

Do we have any factual information on the fog problem? Is it worse in December? January? Is it related to cold temps or some specific weather pattern?

I missed a Beijing flight last December because of fog. My 9:50am flight to Beijing was delayed until noon but we did get out that day. Because of that experience I was thinking I could expect to make it out of Kunming late and then get lodged in a hotel in Beijing when I miss my connection to SFO but if they are shutting the airport down for a full day then all bets are off.

If this is a reoccurring problem I wonder how it will play out. You could have fog for several days...

You can take off in fog a lot more easily than landing so air traffic controllers can allow planes on the ground to leave. Of course if your plane has to arrive here from somewhere else and is not on the ground already in the morning that is no help.

An Asiana flight had a bad crash in San Francisco earlier this year but that was strictly pilot error and with no fog.

So Changshui may be cheap land compared to places like KunYang where they were also thinking about location the airport, and for sure cost was a factor when setting the location of the new airport,,,but the guy who selected one of the most foggy places in the whole Kunming area is now either very rich,,or with a very very red face.

I inquired a bit the last time I was held up by fog. It was a clear and bright day in Kunming. Turns out the fog was at my destination airport of - waitforit - Beijing. I inquired a bit further. Turns out 80% of Chinese airspace is reserved for military use. That means that when there's difficult weather conditions in those small corridors, planes have no way around it.

Very true Yuantongsi..profit driven decision.

They'll adapt..

"So Changshui may be cheap land compared to places like KunYang where they were also thinking about location the airport, and for sure cost was a factor when setting the location of the new airport,,,but the guy who selected one of the most foggy places in the whole Kunming area is now either very rich,,or with a very very red face."

I assume the old military "flying tigers" airport knew about this fog problem or it was a coincidence or convenient location they built it near the lake.

Dianchi lake acts like a huge heat reservoir which I assume cancels out the fog.


Very true..

Bluppfisk."I inquired a bit further. Turns out 80% of Chinese airspace is reserved for military use. That means that when there's difficult weather conditions in those small corridors, planes have no way around it."

China, as a developed / developing nation lags far behind 3 world countries regarding general aviation.

Think of it...you can be in rural areas of Chlie, Nepal, Mexico, India and countless other 3rd world countries and get helicopter rescue and transport to hospitals or other services.....China! nada, nothing, zipo...

Let alone skydive, sight seeing, own an aircraft...come on get on with it China.

In China you can rent or buy any sports car imaginable but you cant operate a small commercial aircraft, Helicopter, light general aircraft "Cessna type" or Ultralight/ microlight aircraft, even if you are fully qualified and certified in other countries...it's absurd.

CAAC will "sell" you a licence to operate an aircraft but you cant get air traffic clearance to fly from the military..totally absurd.

It all has to do with the military controlling 80% of the airspace in China which is the main problem causing the costly delays for airline companies and it's clients. Mind boggling absurd..

As for general aviation the military has plans in process to open up the sky but it's been delayed for many years ..

Here's the article....
China Expected to Expand Opening of Low-altitude Airspace Starting 2012
浏览次数:97 发布时间:2011-11-24

  an official from the office of china national air traffic control committee said that the pilot reform area of low-altitude airspace management will be expanded to more regions including the entire northeast and south center of china, tangshan, and other five cities; by 2015, the pilot reform area of low-altitude airspace management will be promoted countrywide.  zhu shicai, deputy director general from the office of china national air traffic control committee, disclosed the above information on nov. 17. according to the reform views of the state council and central military committee, since january 2012, the pilot reform area of low-altitude airspace management will be expanded from the original changchun, guangzhou, and haikou to more regions including the entire northeast of china, southeast china, tangshan, xi'an, qingdao, hangzhou, ningbo and kunming. the pilot area accounts for 31.6% of the national airspace area.  on august 19, 2010, "on deepening reform of china's low-altitude airspace management view" was issued by the state council and central military commission to vitalize low-altitude airspace resources, improve airspace utilization and promote aviation development.  through a year of pilot reform and experience accumulation, the great economic value and social value concealed in the low-altitude field have been increasingly attached with importance. "12th five-year plan" clearly indicates to positively promote the development of general aviation, to reform airspace management system, to increase the efficiency of airspace resources, and list the construction of new type china-made major and regional aircraft, general aviation aircraft and helicopter industry platform into innovation and development projects of strategic new industry.  "it is the first time in history to promote airspace management reform and development of general aviation to the high degree of national development strategies." zhu shicai said.  china national air traffic control committee also disclosed that it is necessary to fix eyes on the classified management and use of the current airspace and aim at the future trends of general aviation industry. besides, the need for low-altitude flights will also be considered to solve the flying problems between medium and small-sized cities.

As for someone who was actually at the airport on November 30th, this was the situation:

No fog in the city at all in the morning, but only when the taxi drove into the airport did the fog descend. In fact, during the whole day, the city was clear blue skies and only the airport had a fog issue. Granted, it was a pretty think fog bank and people couldn't see more than 50 meters ahead of them.

As soon as I arrived, I saw that half the board was lit up with red delays, but no cancellations. Up until 11am, flights were just shown as 'delayed' but no times were given for when flights would take off. They gave out free food that was not very good, but filled you up for about an hour. At around 11, they started changing flight times to 12 hours later (flight suppose to be 10am? Well, now it's 10pm). Then, they did a blanket announcement that said all flights were cancelled. However, only one flight on the board was officially cancelled. All others were still 'delayed'. The weird thing was that when the annoucement went out, no one moved. The only group I saw leave was a group of foreigners! At around 11:30am, the fog lifted just enough to allow about 1 plane per half hour to start leaving. My flight was scheduled for 10:30am, but we ended up leaving around 4pm. I was told after 7pm that all flights were grounded.

The "mess" here is that this fog could have been avoided had the airport been built in a different location. In all seriousness, there was fog ONLY at the airport. At least this time, they gave out food, continued to update passengers and staff tried to be helpful.

As for as compensation, I didn't see any businesses giving away anything. In fact, they were making great profit from the situation prompting one of my traveling companions to theorize that the location was chosen to increase airport business profit (they made a killing on that day). The staff said that the airline companies could only reschedule you to another flight or arrange hotels, but I didn't see anyone who successfully did either. We were told no rescheduling was possible and a fellow traveler wasn't given any information about hotels when asked.

Problem comes from systemic, actively-promoted reliance on air travel, which by any reasonable standard is neither necessary (except for real emergencies (e.g., Philippine relief), not just speeded-up business relations) nor sustainable for the atmosphere, natural-resource usage, etc.

In short, get a horse.

...... and live in a cave, make fire using flint stones, in short: turn back time to the days when we all lived a simpler but better live.......

Is this what you are saying? Wake up and deal with it, that's the way it is.

Actually, don't get a horse. Chicago, NYC and London of the 19th centuries were cess pools of disease caused by too many horses in an urban atmosphere. The old Brownstones of NYC had raised porches so that there were a few feet of distance from the road level to give a place for the manure to go... oh, and if a horse died, it stayed in the street till it decayed and could be moved. Add to that rampant disease and insanely high amounts of methane (which isn't great for the atmos either....), and well... maybe don't get a horse.

They need to install more sophisticated instrument landing systems— according to what I can find online, they only have ILS CAT I, and their charts demand a RVR (runway visual range) of 720m!

If they installed Cat III they could land in visibility of just 200m. Of course, this will do no good if the Chinese airlines don't have the necessary equipment installed in their fleets...

In China I am sure you can sell the horse once it dies and its manure,,so indosailor may be on to something here

I think you're right on joshwa. There are plenty of airports in the US with chronic heavy fog like SFO that can handle it because they have the equipment to do so. It will often cause many delays and some cancellations because the number of runways in use is decreased, but it will never lead to the cancellation of all flights at the airport. I even lived in Eugene Oregon for four years which get's really bad fog in the winter and when I first moved there flights would often get diverted to Portland if it was heavy, but during my time there they installed new equipment equivalent to that in Portland and Seattle and the diversions more or less never happen now. Typical of China to spend billions on their fourth biggest airport and then not even install the most up date technology.

Living in a cave & making fire with flint isn't necessary, as it's perfectly possible to live in houses & make fire in easier ways without polluting the universe. However, 'dealing with it' is exactly what I propose, rather than simply using something because it exists and somebody wants to sell it to you, regardless of the effects it has - simply going along with everything is not 'dealing with' anything at all: no decisions, no thought is required. And just because the horses produce manure doesn't mean you've got to have an airplane.

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