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Miscellaneous

DOTr Sec. Bautista rushes to CAAP office due to glitch, tells passengers to come early

CAAP and DOTr at the ATMC
(From left): CAAP Air Navigation Service (ANS) Chief Engr. Arnold Balucating, DOTr Secretary Jaime Bautista, CAAP Director General Captain Manuel Antonio Tamayo, CAAP Deputy Director General for Administration Atty. Danjun Lucas, and CAAP Deputy Director General for Operations Captain Edgardo Diaz inside the ATMC on January 1, 2023.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) Secretary Jaime Bautista is advising air passengers with confirmed flights to come to the airports early, citing the congested situation that resulted from the air traffic technical glitch incident on January 1.

It was learned that Bautista rushed to the Civil Aviation Authority of The Philippines (CAAP) office on New Year’s Day after the power supply failure of the traffic management system affected flights and thousands of passengers on the said day.

Bautista and CAAP apologized to all affected passengers of delayed domestic and international flights due to a technical issue that was first detected at 9:50 a.m. of January 1, 2023, at the Philippine Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC).

“CAAP would like to assure that as always, the safety of air transport operations is paramount to the agency. The flight delays and diversions are only precautionary measures to ensure the safety of passengers, crew and aircraft. We guarantee the riding public of our continued commitment to their welfare and convenience,” said CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio.

ATMC office
Inside the Philippine ATMC

In a statement, CAAP explained that the Communications, Navigation, and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management (CNS/ATM) System was a P10.8-billion project financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) that was completed on October 2017.

The CNS/ATM system provides various computer-aided safety measures in Air Traffic Control (ATC), and enhances safety through reduction of controller/pilot workloads and human errors. The new ATM System introduced Air Traffic Flow Management (ATFM) and Air Space Management (ASM) functions, which optimize the use of airport capacity and the efficient use of airspace, hence minimizing delays and allowing more flexible and user-preferred air-route selection.

Previously, CAAP only used three radars which are stationed at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Pasay, in Clark, Pampanga, and in Tagaytay, Cavite to manage the Philippines’ air traffic.

With the new CNS/ATM system, the country now has 13 radars (NAIA1, Clark, Tagaytay, Aparri, Laoag, Cebu-Mt. Majic, Quezon-Palawan, Zamboanga, NAIA2, Mactan, Bacolod, Kalibo, and Davao) covering around 70% of Philippine air space.

Additionally, with the introduction of the Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Contract (ADS-C) and the Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications (CPDLC), the CNS/ATM is able to cover 100% of the remaining oceanic airspace, hence increasing air traffic safety and capacity in the oceanic region of the Manila FIR. The system was inaugurated on 16 January 2018 and commenced comprehensive operations on July 26, 2019.

ATMC Transmitter
Transmitter at the ATMC

The incident that resulted in the loss of power in the system was due to a problem in the system’s electrical network, with its uninterruptible power supply (UPS), which is to be used as backup power supply, also failing. The main cause of the power supply problem is still being determined and is subject for investigation. The CAAP’s Aerodrome and Air Navigation Safety Oversight Office (AANSOO) will be tasked to investigate the incident.

CAAP recognizes that the system is already behind when it was first used in 2019 and has made recommendations to the President on improving the country’s air traffic management system.

Despite the circumstances, CAAP, alongside concerned authorities, has ensured that no aircraft or passengers were harmed. CAAP is grateful to its air traffic management officers, air navigation system officers, and other staff involved in ensuring that the country’s air traffic maintained its safety in spite of the power failure encountered by the system.

As we continue to work to guarantee the safe return of normal flight operations, the Authority would also like to apologize and thank affected passengers for their patience in this unfortunate event, CAAP said in a statement.

The Philippine Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC), which houses the equipment to the system, resumed partial operations with limited capacity at 4:00PM and normal operations have resumed as of 5:50PM on 1 January 2022.

Philippine Airlines flight 222 (4:55PM) and Cathay Pacific flight 930 (5:33PM) were the first flights to respectively land and take off at NAIA after the airport resumed normal operations.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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