Pak airspace shut down: Overload on Mumbai ATC, guiding system crashes twice

Pak airspace shut down: Overload on Mumbai ATC, guiding system crashes twice: On April 5, for about two minutes, dozens of commuter aircraft flew sightless over Mumbai, as a workspace of the air traffic system that coordinates flights crashed two times. Air traffic supervisors said the system, one of four machines part of the directorial system which is called as the Lower Area Control (LAC), crashed for the reason that the Mumbai airport is handling a 60% rise in air traffic succeeding to the Pakistan’s shutting of its airspace in the month of February.

Why Pakistan closing off its airspace is such a major step

Pakistan closed its airspace after India’s retaliation to the Pulwama attack, and has not completely opened it. Every day, there are about hundreds of more flights from the east are flying over Mumbai.

The Mumbai air traffic control (ATC) is using a very old system almost a decade with no backup if it be unsuccessful to start again. The system has been running without maintenance for about four months as the agreement with the firm that established it completed in December 2018.

The Authorities of Airports of India is yet to assign a new maintenance agreement. When systems were down on April 5, the ATC just waited for the system to restart. If that didn’t come about in 10 minutes, ATC would have moved to the manual Procedural Control system, which is less proficient as it does not display floght activities. The controllers said that they confronted a crash for the first time on March 30, and were concerned about the overloaded system crashing over again.

An AAI official said, “Once the system crashes, we are not sure if we can handle the traffic manually. It could lead to a total shutdown of the Mumbai airspace.”

A day after the crash on Saturday, the Air Traffic Controllers Guild (western region), wrote a letter to their general secretary in Delhi. HT has a copy of the letter, which points out that the maintenance agreement completed in December and that the system in its present form is a danger to aircraft security.

However, the AAI spokesperson wanted to tone down the issue. In a statement, the spokesperson JB Singh said, “In any software system, glitches are always there.” He further added, “The display at a particular sector in Mumbai froze and had to be restarted. It became normal in 20 minutes, and during this period, the sector’s airspace was combined with the adjoining ATC sector (Ahmedabad or Nagpur), ensuring safe delivery of service.”

On the other hand, Singh confirmed that the Mumbai automation system was due for replacement. “Tendering action is in progress for a complete replacement. These system glitches are common and happen worldwide,” he said.

Further senior AAI officials said that the concern with the system has been deliberated at the senior-most levels in Mumbai at present and a suggestion to have a new system was directed to AAI’s headquarters in Delhi. But, it will take at least a year to lastly switch the system, after tenders are delivered and the bidding procedure starts, these officials said.

At the present, in order to reduce its traffic load, the Mumbai airport has given out a notice to pilots and airlines that use its airspace to not appeal a direct course over Mumbai, and in its place follow their consistent route.

Airport officials said “This notice to airmen (NOTAM) may last up to a month and is essential. Without it, the load on controllers increases.”