Thursday, July 28, 2022

Aging air traffic system at Mumbai airport prone to snags

Mumbai: The automation system that helps Mumbai air traffic control handle a large volume of flights land, take off and overfly safely and efficiently has been prone to an unhealthy number of glitches and failures in the recent past.

In June alone, the automation system faced more than 70 subsystem problems, stated a letter by the Air Traffic Controllers Guild to its employer, the government-owned Airports Authority of India (AAI), on Wednesday.

AAI provides air traffic services over the Indian airspace. Among the issues plaguing the Mumbai air traffic control is sudden blackout or freezing of controllers' display screen, systems rebooting repeatedly, server failure, computerised workstations with keyboard and mouse that don't function properly, among others.

The hardware for the current automation system is over 16 years old; while the lifespan of the system is estimated to be 10 years, said the letter. The system was procured keeping in mind the air traffic scenario that existed over two decades ago. The traffic has increased manifold thereafter and the airspace structure has changed.

All the changes done through software, though, are being implemented on the same hardware components-comprising workstations, servers, recorders, among others, that is-which were already working at peak capacity way back in 2010.

"To put it in perspective, we have upgraded our laptops/system from 128 MB RAM to 5-8 GB RAM in the past 20 years. Had we been using the old system, we would not be able to even open a web browser or run a simple program," stated the letter, explaining the issue at hand.

Among the other major failures recorded in the recent past, the controllers' workstation that handles arrival, departure and overflying flights failed about 30-odd times in March and the workstation that handles flights over oceanic airspace failed about 10 times from March 20 and April 05, it said. Then, between March and April, there were about 25 failures of sub-systems, including the 'flight data processing system'. Remedial action taken included changing the RAM, replacing hardware machines with local spare parts and restarting the sub-system to sustain operations in all means, it said.

28/07/22 Manju V/Times of India

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