The smog over Beijing was touted as a potential missile screen earlier this week, but more pressingly—and distressingly—it’s causing problems for airplanes attempting to land in China’s capital. China’s civil aviation regulatory body will require pilots traveling in to the city on especially smoggy days be certified in instrument-only flight. Regulators hope the new requirement will cut down on flight delays brought on by smog-related visibility problems. As Reuters reports, there is certainly room for improvement in that department:
Despite investing billions of dollars in new airports and advanced Western-built aircraft, China suffers a chronic problem with flight delays, partly because of the country’s often wildly-fluctuating weather and partly because the military tightly controls most of China’s airspace.Chinese media frequently reports fights, attacks on airport and airline workers and passengers storming aircraft in response to delays and the poor way they are handled, and the government has demanded airlines and airports address the issue.
This urban air pollution problem is pervasive, and one that the Chinese public is demonstrably unwilling to let its government ignore. Flight delays are the least of the many malaises brought on by this airpocalypse; the World Bank estimates that toxic smog costs China 5.78 percent of its GDP every year in premature deaths, material damages, and health care costs. Clearing its skies has fast become one of the most pressing domestic issues for China’s leadership.