For about 30 minutes on Saturday evening, flights scheduled to take-off from the Mumbai airport were stranded in parking bays or in the departure queue as the airport’s flight radar suddenly went down.
Around 5:30 pm, a crucial part of the radar processing unit encountered a glitch that resulted in holding up departures not just at the city airport but also at some other nearby airports. A Mumbai International Airport Limited (MIAL) spokesperson confirmed the glitch led to ‘massive delays’ but said that it was too early to ascertain to number of held up flights.
“Departures are stuck because the air traffic control (ATC) department’s flight radar is down. The arrivals are on schedule,” said the spokesperson, adding that overall traffic movement at the airport was slow.
ATC sources said the glitch primarily affected the radar’s automation function, which resulted in unscheduled delays. “As soon as it came to our notice, we began to switch back to our back up system but that takes about 20 minutes. As a result take-off clearances were delayed,” said a senior ATC official, requesting anonymity.
The official added some Mumbai-bound flights were also asked to hold up at other airports. “Some incoming flights were directed to delay take-offs to avoid bunching. It is part of the standard operating procedure,” said another ATC official.
Airport sources said the flight movement handling capacity fell from approximately 45 movements in an hour to 30 movements. While the Airports Authority of India (AAI) has begun its probe into the glitch, the aviation safety regulator is also likely to question the city ATC.