Why have dozens of flights been rerouted away from Nantes airport?

Nine flights were diverted to other French airports on Monday

An Air France plane flying above clouds
A change in the amount of low cloud cover and pilot visibility allowed at Nantes airport has been adding to landing problems in recent days and months
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Dozens of flights have reportedly been turned away from Nantes airport in recent days - including nine on Monday (July 31).

The flights were rerouted to Bordeaux, Roissy, and Limoges, reports Le Figaro. An EasyJet flight from Bristol even turned back to its original destination.

“Our plane was supposed to land at 23:20 but was rerouted. We landed in Bordeaux before taking off again to arrive in Nantes at around 02:50,” one passenger on a Berlin-Nantes Transavia flight told Ouest-France.

On Tuesday (August 1) the situation improved slightly, with just two flights rerouted: one to Paris-Charles de Gaulle and another to Rennes.

Some flights took off quickly again just before landing, and some circulated above the airport waiting to be able to land (known as ‘going around’). Some arrived much later than planned and landed after midnight - despite the airport having had a curfew in place since April 8, 2022.

Similar disruption was reported at Nantes-Atlantique in January and March this year.

Is poor weather to blame?

Some have blamed poor weather. One source “close to the airport” told Le Figaro that it was experiencing “quasi-systematic [rerouting of flights] as soon as visibility drops”, especially for flights arriving from the north, as “the pilots will not take any risks”.

French aviation authority la Direction générale de l’aviation civile (DGAC) has said that it is aware of “multiple inherent problems” with the airport “due to several factors” including “poor weather conditions”.

In the last week, Nantes has seen high winds and low clouds.

‘Additional landing constraints’

However, the DGAC also said there had been “an additional landing constraint implemented since January on a provisional basis”.

At the start of this year the minimum altitude at which the pilot must decide whether they are going to land or ‘go around’ was raised by 90 metres.

The change is intended to ensure pilots have better visibility. But it means that in poorer weather - when cloud cover is low - there is a higher likelihood the pilot will decide against landing.

In addition for ‘southern landings’ at Nantes, when the wind blows from the west (which it often does), pilots must follow a trajectory 12° off-centre from the runway to limit flights over the city. For this manoeuvre, pilots cannot use their high-precision guidance system (the system is expected to be usable from 2025, but this is yet to be confirmed).

This means that pilots have to rely on good visibility to see the runway and make a visual approach.

But with low cloud cover, and the 90-metre increase in visibility required, pilots are more likely to have obstructed vision and feel that it is unsafe to land. As a result, Nantes is expected to continue to have landing problems - especially when the weather is bad - for some time.

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