The failure of the air traffic management software AutoTrac-III at Delhi airport on Monday — the sixth such incident since the system was introduced in 2010 — has made aviation authorities anxious. The incident is now being probed by the country’s civil aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).On Monday, a technical snag in the radar system of the Delhi air traffic control (ATC) sent data of the aircraft arriving or departing from the airport haywire. Though ATC officials managed the air traffic and the backup systems also kicked in, the airport has seen worse in the last two years when on occasions, ATC screens went blank.
“We are looking into the breakdown of the software at Delhi ATC. The problem has occurred too often,” DGCA chief EK Bharat Bhushan told Hindustan Times.
Sources in the DGCA said that though safety of the passengers wasn’t compromised in the incident, it was a serious lapse that needs to be thoroughly investigated. “Apart from such breakdowns, there have also been minor glitches in the software in the last two years,” said an official.
He also said that officials from the Airports Authority of India (AAI) — which manages air traffic at the airport — were summoned to brief the DGCA brass on the issue. A senior AAI official said that Raytheon, the US-based company that has provided the software, has also been contacted.
The Delhi ATC manages nearly 1,000 flights at the airport every day, apart from all the traffic in the Delhi air space — an area that stretches from Pakistan and Afghanistan border to Nepal border and from Srinagar to Varanasi.
The Delhi ATC was using AutoTrac-II — which still serves as the backup — till 2010 and the validation trials for upgrading the system to AutoTrac-III was started the same year.
“The system is proving to be unreliable and though we have multiple layers of backup, there shouldn’t be any problem with the main system in the first place,” said a senior ATC official.