Friday 21 September 2012

Civil Aviation Dept DG: We never lost control

  • Hazlan Zakaria
  • 5:03PM Sep 21, 2012
The Department of Civil Aviation (DCA) today denied losing control of planes at the Kuala Lumpur Air Traffic Control Centre sector after power failure rendered the centre's radar inoperable for over an hour last week.

NONE"We had a power failure due to problems with a circuit breaker and the radar was inoperative," admitted its director-general Azharuddin Abdul Rahman to Malaysiakini.

He stressed that the problem was not with the air traffic control system per se but just a power outage.

Azharuddin explained that when the circuit breaker tripped and power supply was cut off, no one noticed.

Though the standby uninterruptable power supply immediately came online to sustain it, the radar went offline after the UPS battery supply was exhausted.

However, he denied earlier allegations by PKR this morning that the centre also lost all radio communications, explaining that while local frequencies used by its air traffic supervisors were down, they still were communicating with planes using the standby "guard" radio channel.

"With the radar down, we used the procedural method (plotting airplane course and heading manually) and then issue instructions to the planes on what to do via the radio".
‘Control not handed to foreign centres’

He also denied the department handed control of airplanes over to foreign ground control, though he said that as per safety guidelines, the military ground control sector at the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) Butterworth air base, with its overlapping radar coverage, was informed to be on standby.

Azharuddin said that during the over one hour incident at 2.50am on Sept 12, only three flights were directly affected.

"One inbound flight we successfully landed, safely and on time. While the other two outgoing flights we had to delay," the DCA head said.

The outbound flights, Azharuddin said, had to be delayed as they needed to allow more time between flights when they are using the procedural method to direct air traffic as they need to put more distance between flights for safety reasons.

Azharuddin said that contingencies and backups were in place and they were very much in operation even without radar.

He related that after they discovered the tripped circuit breaker the device was immediately reset and power came back online soon after, and the air traffic control system was back up and running again.

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