Out of order: Air traffic control system shut for four hours

Published: April 16, 2012

The radar system and the associate communication system were out of order in Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta and Rojhan. PHOTO: FILE

LAHORE: The air traffic control system of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) remained shut for 253 minutes in major parts of the country early Monday morning, sources familiar with the matter revealed to The Express Tribune.

The radar and associate communication system were out of order in Lahore, Islamabad, Quetta and Rojhan from 2:02am to 6:15am. An emergency was declared and CAA officials deputed at the air traffic control system used a single link frequency system to avoid any untoward incidents, sources said.

During this time, around 165 flights carried between 40,000 and 50,000 passengers, despite cloudy weather and rainfall in parts of the country. The air traffic controller had to point out a number of times that the air traffic safety system was not up to date and even flights flying from Kabul and India could not be traced.

The director general (DG) of CAA ordered an inquiry into the incident and DG operations appointed an inquiry officer to probe the matter.

CAA spokesperson Pervez George, while talking to The Express Tribune, claimed that there was possibility of a ‘technical fault’ developing in the system and that is why a ‘manual system’ was used for communication. The spokesperson added that he would be in a better position to give a detailed account once he had information from the engineers and other quarters concerned. He also said that the malfunction had been rectified and the air traffic control system was functioning normally now.

Responding to a question on the strike call issued for Tuesday by the staff of the CAA regarding an increase in salaries, promotion and other demands, he stated that most of the demands of the employees were fulfilled in a board meeting of the CAA held in Karachi on Monday. He hoped the employees would take back the strike call.

On Monday, CAA staff at Allama Iqbal International Airport Lahore was on strike. They claimed that the aviation authority was a profitable institution which earned between Rs15 billion to Rs18 billion annually, but the salaries of its employees and other perks and privileges were below those of workers of various other federal government institutions.

Reader Comments (12)

  • Mahmood
    Apr 16, 2012 - 2:19PM

    Perhaps a great time to sneak over NATO supplies without anyone noticing ;) The nature of the incident + time of day are too much of a coincidence. CAA – we’re not idiots.

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  • Hakeem
    Apr 16, 2012 - 3:18PM

    hardly anything here is in order-

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  • Apr 16, 2012 - 3:45PM

    I thought we were still using that Glide Scope and Beacon System … thank god for the Radars … :P

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  • Usman
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:19PM

    I guess the Americans didn’t have to bomb us to send us back to the stone age, Zardari and Gillani have done that for them.

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  • Meekal Ahmed
    Apr 16, 2012 - 7:59PM

    @Mahmood:

    Nothing like a conspiracy theory to make my day!

    How come others don’t think that way?

    Are we missing something?

    Even in the largest civil aviation market in the world, the US, this has happened. It can be a bit unsettling but there are always back-up systems to take over while the problem is fixed.

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  • DB
    Apr 16, 2012 - 8:51PM

    Such a system wide failure for this long can be easily attributed to sophisticated electronic jamming and only one country has that ability: the US.

    More then likely the US had to transfer some strategic assets (TTP, BLA, JSOC, CIA etc.) of it’s own through the NATO air corridor without detection or perhaps even conduct surveillance of Pakistani nuclear sites. And this isn’t a conspiracy theory, but reality. The US has the means and the motive.

    We should expect an increase in terrorist attacks in Pakistan soon until NATO supply route is restored.

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  • Strigon
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:31PM

    New day new report of incompetence in workers.

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  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Apr 16, 2012 - 10:59PM

    Due to acute shortage of Air Traffic Staff in Karachi and Lahore, people working at the Control Towers of both the Airports are heavily under pressure due to overload of work.

    These guys are working beyond the human capacity and doing unbelievable jobs, as according to international standards, an Air Traffic Controller and his subordinate staff is NOT suppose to work continuously more than two hours in a shift and then must have adequate mental and physical rest before resuming the duty again.

    Air Traffic is a precision job but the staff at Air Traffic Control Towers are working just like donkeys and not as human beings.

    There are approximately between 900 flights which takes off and land at the various airports of the country including the flights which are in transit and overpass Pakistan’s sky.

    If the CAA will not recruit additional staff on emergency basis, I am afraid that there may be a big mishap either during the take off, landing or during the transit of any flight.

    I strongly urge the Director General of Civil Aviation Authority of Pakistan to kindly look into this matter on urgent basis to avoid any air-mishap and to save the precious human lives as well as having a band name of the country in international media.

    Look at the salaries which the CAA pays to Air Traffic Controllers and the other operational staff.

    In developed countries, the Air Traffic Controllers are drawing more than the monthly salaries of the Prime Ministers. This is a heavily paid job, but what one can say about about the salaries given to Air Traffic Staff in Pakistan.

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  • Ch Allah Daad
    Apr 16, 2012 - 11:59PM

    @ Mohammad Ali Siddiqui, well said. We lack real experts in almost all fields. In our country its easier to become federal minister than air traffic controller.

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  • gujranwala987
    Apr 17, 2012 - 3:22AM

    Unbelievable , it seems like pakistan under zardari and gilani is heading towards a new bronze age.

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  • SIG
    Apr 17, 2012 - 10:34PM

    It’s the Electronics Engineers who are maintaining these state of the RADARs and Navigational Aids, Communication Systems etc. Air traffic controllers are using these aids to guide the air traffic in Pakistan airspace on the defined routes. But it’ll be surprising to know that an Engineer has been receiving a technical allowance of Rs.1000/- per month in his salary since 1988. Is it fair in these dire economic times? Will the ATC be able to deliver its service without these professional engineers?

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  • Imran
    Apr 22, 2012 - 2:43AM

    The issue with the aviation radar going bizarre has been there for quite a few months. A friend of mine during his solo training flight nearly missed a Boeing passenger plane because of these retards sitting at the control room. He save himself + the passengers on that plane. And this incident happened 2 months back and was swept under the carpet. Just imagine the height of negligence. I don’t understand where our country is heading…….We don’t need conspiracies or US missiles, we are good enough reason for our destruction.

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