A310, low visibility landing in Zurich, Switzerland

From:         loeffel@iis.ee.ethz.ch (Frank Loeffel)
Organization: Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETHZ)
Date:         13 Oct 95 01:30:25 
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Hi,

My parents flew from Cyprus to Zurich-Kloten, Switzerland, in a Cyprus
Airlines Airbus A310. In Kloten, the weather was foggy with only a few
patches of ground visible from the air.

Well, my parents told me about a few things that the captain did:
- The captain announced that he wouldn't anticipate a problem due to the
low visibility. My parents thought that this was a rather strange
announcment.
- The captain announced that he would fly a 360 degree circle to check
things out. Perhaps my parents misinterpreted something and the circle
was just mandated by air traffic control for spacing.

They asked me, a single engine land pilot, what whas going on on that
flight but I didn't have a clue. So the questions:

- Can airliners land at Zurich-Kloten in zero visibility? What is
the equipment at an airport required for zero visibility landings called?

- Can an A310 land in zero visibility? What is the equipment in an airliner
required for zero visibility landings called?

- Can an A310 do "automatic" (autopilot until touch down) landings?
What is an autopilot that allows "automatic" landings called?
Can modern airliners generally do "automatic" landings? If visibility
is zero or nearly zero, which style of landing would the captain generally
prefer?

I'm sure some of these are frequently asked questions, but I've lurked
around for a while and have never seen a FAQ file posted..

Thanks for all comments!

Frank Loeffel
loeffel@err.ethz.ch