Air traffic operations at Mumbai were in disarray for about 10 minutes yesterday, ringing alarm bells for some 20 aircraft hovering over the city, when the Air Traffic Control stopped functioning due to power failure. More significantly, none of the back-up systems worked leading to chaos in the air. It’s learnt that the incident happened around 11-40 am when the generators and the UPS back-up systems were all pulled out for maintenance purposes in what is emerging as a case of “poor planning”.
One UPS that was functional also tripped due to overload leaving the one emergency frequency — used otherwise to tackle flight emergencies — operational.
This one frequency, sources said, was jammed as all aircraft tried desperately to seek instructions through this only available channel for communication. All that the ATC could do was ensure that the aircraft didn’t change their altitudes. In short, sources said, the situation was “very dangerous”. The only radar partly working was the one monitoring the southern side of the airspace in Mumbai region.
Sources said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has sought an urgent report on the reason for such failure given that several measures had been put in place after a similar incident took place a year ago. However, unlike this time, there was a blackout then. In this case, poor maintenance planning created a “dangerous scenario”.
While Mumbai airport officials sought to play this down, DGCA sources said such an incident must not happen in one of India’s premier airports as all effort has gone into placing several back-ups so that the ATC does not stop functioning