The air traffic control system of the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) remained shut for more than four hours 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 40,000 to 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 that a ‘technical fault’ could have developed 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 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 17th, 2012.