Re: A310, low visibility landing in Zurich, Switzerland

From:         wangermn@phoenix.Princeton.EDU (John P. Wangermann)
Organization: Princeton University
Date:         13 Oct 95 12:38:19 
References:   1
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In article <airliners.1995.1613@ohare.Chicago.COM>,
Frank Loeffel <loeffel@iis.ee.ethz.ch> wrote:

>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.

The 360 circle sounds a bit strange, but maybe the plane had shown some
inaccuracy on a previous automatic landing.  It doesn't seem unusual for
pilots to mention that a landing will be fully automatic - I've had both
Lufthansa and BA pilots announce this.

>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?

Although I'm not intimately familiar with Zurich, it's in mountains and
near water, so near ideal conditions for lots of fog.  So I'm sure that
airport and Swissair aircraft are fitted with CatIII (i.e., can land
with 0 visibility (IIIc), 0 ft decision height) equipment.

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

See above.

>- 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?

With 0 visibility, the pilot must have Cat IIIc ratings, the aircraft
must have CatIII equipment and so must the airport.  And it has to be an
automatic landing.  Otherwise the flight must divert.

I'm sure other posters can give a more accurate reply, but I think my
answers are "in the ball park".

John Wangermann