Framework

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Feb. 9, 1949: A new fog dispersal burner is demonstrated at Los Angeles Airport. The British developed the original FIDO system during World War II and had success burning off fog to allow aircraft to land. But when a 392-burner FIDO system was installed at Los Angeles Airport, it failed to clear the fog and after a few years the system was removed. This photo was published in the Feb. 10, 1949, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Paul Calvert / Los Angeles Times

February 1949: From left, William Fleming of Todd Shipyards Corporation; Col. Clarence M. Young, general manager of the City Airport Department; and James E. Read, acting regional administrator of the Civil Aeronautics Administration, crouch next to one of the 392 FIDO burners installed at Los Angeles Airport.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: William Eccles / Los Angeles Airport Photography

An aircraft lands during a test of FIDO at the Landing Aids Experiment Station in Arcata, Calif. This photo was published in the Jan. 3, 1950, L.A. Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Landing Aids Experiment Station

February 1949: How FIDO works. On Los Angeles Airport's mail runway, an $842,000 fog-dispersing system is being installed and will be in service next month. This illustration by Charles Owns was published in the Feb. 21, 1949, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Charles Owens / Los Angeles Times/Proquest

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Fog busting FIDO tried at Los Angeles Airport

Feb. 9, 1949: One of 392 burners for the planned fog dispersal FIDO system is demonstrated at Los Angeles Airport.

The FIDO (Fog, Intensive, Dispersal Of) system was developed and successfully used by the British during World War II to land aircraft. So in 1949, the Los Angeles Department of Airports tried the system at the fog plagued Los Angeles Airport — now Los Angeles International Airport.

The next morning a short story in the Los Angeles Times reported:

FIDO – a sort of airport watchdog – last night was unleashed by Los Angeles Airport.

FIDO’s name is derived from the British catalogue item, “Fog, intensive, dispersal of.”

FIDO is a combustion device for banishment of fog, and allows safe landing of air liners at their proper bases.

Los Angeles Airport, the first civil airport to attempt the ambitious undertaking, is to expend $842,000 for its Thermal Fog Dispersal System – FIDO’s proper name. The project is in financial co-operation with the federal government and the five major air companies operating here: United Air Lines, Pan American Airways, Trans World Airlines, American Airlines and Southwest Airways.

In a preview showing, one unit of the 392 fog dispersing nozzles was unveiled last night. A three-jet arrangement, it sprouts flame nearly 12 feet into the air and generates enough heat to drive the fog aside long enough for an airplane to land.

In a May 24, 1949, test, FIDO flunked. The Times reported that about a quarter of the burners failed to light and the test aircraft was forced to land at Lockheed Air Terminal in Burbank.

In the Oct. 7, 1951, edition, Marvin Miles, Times aviation editor, reported:

Mechanical bugs that have harassed FIDO (Fog Intensive, Dispersal of) at Los Angeles International Airport apparently have been ironed out – or almost – and it looks like zero-zero operations are not too far off…

We can well remember FIDO’s lowest hour – when on its first public test a flight load of supervisory personnel couldn’t return to International (it was too foggy, even with FIDO) and had to land at Lockheed Air Terminal.

Even after additional burners were added, FIDO never worked properly and was removed after a couple of years.

Four images are in the above FIDO gallery. The graphic, published in the Feb. 21, 1949, L.A. Times, shows how the system was originally installed.

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