Categorized | National News

Air Traffic Concerns Mount As Summer Approaches

With summer fast approaching and air traffic expected to increase air traffic controllers are growing increasingly worried about a malfunctioning radar at the Lynden Pindling International Airport (LPIA).

In fact, air traffic controllers are hoping the current radar system will hold up.

“This will be a challenging season for us also bearing in mind an increase in thunderstorms and the approaching hurricane season,” according to President of the Bahamas Air Traffic Controllers Union (BATCU) Roscoe Perpall.

Mr. Perpall said these factors, including increasing flight schedules, pose a serious challenge for his members who have had to improvise for far too long.

The current radar was installed in the 1980s and has a life expectancy of about 10 plus years, Mr. Perpall confirmed.

And with additional servicing and upgrades, he said the radar could last and has lasted a little longer before controllers started to encounter major problems that have led to significant outages in years past.

“Around 2003/2004 we purchased a new radar system which was supposed to replace the existing radar, but it was later found that that the radar was not adequate to meet the needs of LPIA,” he said.

Additionally, Mr. Perpall said it was found that the radar was defective in a number of ways. As a result, he said the radar was never used.

“It was regrettable that the government lost somewhere in the vicinity of $10 million in that process. But hopefully with consultation and the assistance of the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO), when the new radar is purchased this same mistake will not happen.”

According to Mr. Perpall, the current radar is failing due to its age and inadequate support. What is worse, he said, is the fact that the said radar is no longer supported by the manufacturer.

From time to time, he said, parts have malfunctioned, but officials have had to do without as some parts have been discontinued by the manufacturers.

This, he said makes it difficult for controllers to carry out their duties.
“And without the radar, the controllers then have to revert to non-radar control. This manual system provides aircraft separation based on pilot reports creating major delays,” he said.

And although the procedure is one that has been proven and tested over time, Mr. Perpall said the separation standard has drastically increased.

“Today we would run aircraft somewhere on an average of three to five mile separations. But during non-radar operation, we end up having to run aircraft based on time,” he said.

He continued, “We should expect an increase in traffic as we know the government is trying to attract new airlines considering the expansion of the terminal. But if these new airlines continue to come, then it will be more critical that the radar be replaced to avoid unfavourable consequences.”

During the summer months, Mr. Perpall said air traffic controllers monitor about 450-500 flights a day, while in the winter months, controllers monitor upwards of 800 incoming and outgoing flights.

Written by Jones Bahamas

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