The automation system that helps Mumbai’s air traffic control to manage a large number of flights landing, taking off and overflying safely and efficiently has been prone to an unhealthy number of glitches and breakdowns in the recent past.
In June alone, the automation system faced more than 70 subsystem problems, says a letter from the Air Traffic Controllers Guild to its employer, the Airports Government Authority of India. (AAI), Wednesday, July 27. AAI provides air traffic services over Indian airspace.
Among the problems plaguing Mumbai air traffic control are controllers’ display screens suddenly failing or freezing, repeated system restarts, server crashes and computer workstations with keyboards and mice that not working properly, among other things.
The current automation system hardware is over 16 years old; while the lifetime of the system is estimated at 10 years, the letter states. The system was purchased keeping in mind the air traffic scenario that existed more than two decades ago.
Traffic increased thereafter and the airspace structure changed. However, all changes are made through software and are implemented on the same hardware components, including workstations, servers and recorders, which were already running at full capacity in 2010.
“To put it into perspective, we have been upgrading our laptops/systems from 128MB RAM to 5-8GB RAM over the past 20 years. If we had used the old system, we wouldn’t even be able to open a web browser or run a simple program,” the letter read, explaining the issue in question.
Other major failures recorded in the recent past include the controller workstation that handles arrival, departure and overflight flights failed about 30 times in March and the controller workstation that handles flights over oceanic airspace failed about 10 times between March 20 and April 05. , it said.
Then, between March and April, there were about 25 subsystem failures, including the “flight data processing system”. Corrective actions taken included changing RAM, replacing hardware machines with local spares, and rebooting the subsystem to maintain operations by all means.
The guild’s letter offered immediate and long-term solutions. AAI should ask Raytheon, the manufacturer, to provide hardware support for the existing system, he said.
For the long term, a tender for a new automation system has already been launched for airports, including Mumbai. But procurement, installation, commissioning, training, etc. will take at least 4 years, he said.
READ ALSO – The shortage of air traffic controllers is getting worse
India’s ATC sector is already facing a shortage of air traffic controllers, with current numbers already 22% below the sanctioned number. As airports are rapidly expanding across the country, new hires have not been able to keep pace with development.
Mumbai airport alone has seen an increase of more than 132% in passenger traffic over the past six months. Aircraft movement will only increase from now on, meaning fully upgraded ATC equipment is a top priority.
(With contributions from Times of India)