FIDO The emergency runway at Carnaby was fitted with a secret fog dispersal system called FIDO (Fog Investigation Dispersal Operation). Only 12 airfields in Britain were fitted with this equipment; three of them being emergency runways (including Carnaby). It was Britain’s best kept secret throughout the war.
The FIDO system consisted of two rows of pipes which ran down the length of the runway with over 180 MK burners. Fuel was pumped into these pipes and then lit. The heat from the burning fuel raised the air temperature enough to disperse the fog above the runway. This created a hole or “window” through the fog, allowing pilots a clear view of the runway and enabling them to land safely. It was a daunting task for any pilot to fly through a wall of fire in order to reach safety. However, many pilots were brave enough to do so and were very thankful for it.
Lighting FIDO was an expensive business as it used a staggering 120,000 gallons of fuel per hour on a full burn. It required a full crew of 60 men to operate each valve and was used approximately 250 times during the war as fog and poor visibility were regular occurrences on the east coast of Yorkshire. The FIDO crew were able to refuel the tanks very quickly after a burn because a special siding had been added to the LNER railway which ran adjacent to the airfield. This saved the crew a lot of time when re-fueling and made them very efficient. By December 1944, FIDO had been used so extensively that the pipelines had to be replaced. This was a 4 week job which the FIDO crew had to take on as well as manning the burners during poor weather conditions. A shortage of labour meant that the FIDO crew were now down to 19 men to handle 60 burners and to replace the burnt out pipes.
FIDO continued to be used during the war and for a time after the war. It saved thousands of lives and hundreds of aircraft.