Friday, March 03, 2017

‘Sluggish air traffic systems may lead to big disaster’

New Delhi: Air traffic controllers under the aegis of the Air Traffic Controllers’ Guild — the body that represents them — have sounded alarm to aviation authorities of “sluggish” air traffic management systems, especially during adverse weather conditions or heavy air-traffic situations.

The ATC guild complained that the latest instance of this was observed during Republic Day (January 26) once the airspace closure due to the parade had ended over New Delhi.

The ATC guild warned that this poses a threat to air safety. The complaint was made recently to top officials of state-run Airports Authority of India, under whose purview the ATC functions. Top sources in the AAI told this newspaper that new ATC systems are already being installed in New Delhi and are expected to be operational in six months, and that every effort was being made to address the concerns of the ATCs. The ATC guild demanded immediate upgrade of the ATC system software and hardware as well as restrictions in growth of air traffic pending these upgrades. “The Guild is of the considered opinion that a disaster… is not far away,” it has warned.

“Frequent sluggishness of… ATM (air traffic management) system workstations in recent times have been very distressing to the ATCs working at the busiest airspace in India (over Delhi) where 70 per cent of the terminal airspace is under defence authorities,” the guild said in the complaint. “The tools available to the (air traffic) controllers are very poorly maintained.”

“The most recent example is what happened on the Republic Day. Due to adverse weather conditions and airspace closure, the controllers (ATCs) did not have any leeway to handle traffic... AT-3 system became sluggish at a time when the system needed it to be at its top of form,” the ATC guild said.
03/03/17 Sridhar Kumaraswami/Asian Age