Mumbai Air traffic controller system crashes twice which is used in coordinating flights. According to Hindustan Times report, the reason behind the system failure is that Mumbai airport is managing 60% rise in air traffic following Pakistan’s closure of its airspace in February. Pakistan shut its airspace after India’s retaliation to the Pulwama attack and has not fully opened it. Hundreds of more flights from the east are flying over Mumbai every day.
Above this, ATC is using the decade-old system without any backup and it is running without maintenance from four months. On April 5, the system was down and ATC had to wait for it to restart and if it does not start in 10 minutes than they have to switch to manual Procedural Control system, less efficient as it does not display flight movements. Controllers said they faced a crash for the first time on March 30 and were worried about the overloaded system crashing again.
“Once the system crashes, we are not sure if we can handle the traffic manually. It could lead to a total shutdown of the Mumbai airspace,” said an AAI official to Hindustan Times.
The AAI spokesperson, however, sought to downplay the issue. “In any software system, glitches are always there,” said the spokesperson JB Singh, in a statement. “The display at a particular sector in Mumbai froze and had to be restarted. It became normal in 20 minutes, and during this period, the sector’s airspace was combined with the adjoining ATC sector (Ahmedabad or Nagpur), ensuring safe delivery of service.” Singh, however, confirmed that the Mumbai automation system was due for replacement. “Tendering action is in progress for a complete replacement. These system glitches are common and happen worldwide,” he said.
For now, to reduce its traffic load, the Mumbai airport has issued a notice to pilots and airlines that use its airspace to not request a direct route over Mumbai, and instead follow their regular route. “This notice to airmen (NOTAM) may last up to a month and is essential. Without it, the load on controllers increases,” airport officials said.