...VFR Flying In Unimaginable Conditions...

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The status of airfields and navaids is uncertain in much of the region, and assessment teams are working to determine the status of facilities. Meanwhile, many aircraft are limited to flying VFR and only in daylight, though many have flown despite pounding rains. At the Port Blair airport in India, half of the 12,000-foot runway was usable. "All the landmarks that normally help us identify the airfield had vanished. We could see no traces of villages or houses. ... I had never seen anything like this before," pilot Ashish Dhawan told The Times of India. Even the coastlines and terrain have changed dramatically. Helicopter pilot Rahul Verma told the Hindustan Times that sandbars pilots once saw from the sky have vanished, and new formations have popped up from the sea. "It's a very strange experience," he said. Helicopters are especially critical to the effort because they can operate in remote areas without airports. New Zealand, Australia, Singapore, Pakistan and scores of other nations have been sending cargo aircraft and helicopters to the region, but helicopters have been slow to arrive, because they have limited range and must travel by ship.