Less than a month after the entire radar system collapsed at Delhi airports’ Air Traffic Control (ATC) tower, a radar screen showing air traffic between the India-Pakistan border and the capital went blank on Wednesday.
The radarscope (consoles showing data received from radars) at the Indira Gandhi International Airport’s ATC tower went offline at 2.30 pm on Wednesday.
This specific radar screen is used for Area West control, which takes care of air traffic in Delhi’s airspace from the Indo-Pak border to the capital, including Jaipur. The screen came back online around 3.05 pm.
This is the fourth such incident to have taken place IGI Airport’s ATC tower.
On January 14, the whole radar system had collapsed and the air traffic controllers had to manage traffic manually.
While the investigation into the January 14 incident is still going on, two separate incidents of one or more radar screens going blank have taken place since then.
“Radar screens going blank in such quick succession is dangerous. Though we managed air traffic manually, such a situation shouldn’t arise in the first place,” said a senior air traffic control official (ATCO) who didn’t wish to be named.
The radar consoles show the exact position of aircraft along with other coordinates like speed, altitude and call-signs. After the screen went blank, the ATCOs had to shift to ‘procedural control’ to manage the traffic.
In simpler terms, they had to control the air traffic manually and obtain details by talking to pilots over radio.
The ATCOs said the poor maintenance of the radar system is to be blamed for frequent snags. “The system has been in use 24X7 for years now. Without proper maintenance such problems are bound to happen,” he said.
“Whenever such snags happen, our workload increases ten times and it also means more pressure on pilots,” he said.
Air traffic at IGIA, like all civil airports in the country, is managed by the Airports Authority of India (AAI).
When contacted, the AAI spokesman didn’t speak on the issue and refused to comment.