My Take

Unanswered questions over the air traffic control system debacle

From exactly what happened in the latest incident with the system to the details of the contract with the manufacturer, authorities must come clean

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 12:50am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 12 April, 2017, 12:50am

First, mea culpa. My Monday column on the airport’s scandalously faulty HK$1.5 billion-plus US-made air traffic control system apparently failed to raise some key issues. Luckily, several well-informed readers – among them flight controllers and an aviation engineer – came to the rescue and put me on the right track.

The weekend incident saw the RaytheonAuto Trac III (AT3) lose information on the positioning and altitude of a large number of flights for 15 minutes. Civil Aviation Department officials claim the outage was caused by too many flight controllers logging on to the system at the same time.

Well, care to answer the following:

How many controllers are supposed to log in at the same time?

How many were logged in at the time of the outage?

Why were more controllers than the system could handle allowed to log in?

If this was a known deficiency, why wasn’t there a safety limit set within the software to pre-empt the problem?

Did Raytheon know about this issue and has it warned CAD beforehand?

Aviation authority to reconsider retiring old air traffic control system in light of latest glitch

Here is another line of questioning from someone who is familiar with the history of the AT3. The system was bought in 2011 and was meant to be running by the end of 2012. It didn’t become operational until last November.

Is there a provision in the government contract with Raytheon that a financial penalty would be imposed for each day of delay, and if so, how many days of delay in total may be counted by now?

If such a penalty clause exists, why are we not suing Raytheon for compensation, but instead, are paying the US company to rectify the problems with its faulty system?

How much have we paid, and will we be paying, Raytheon to clean up its own system, and why?

Is it true that the main airport in New Delhi has dropped its AT3 software and switched to rival contractor Indra? Indra, by the way, was the company that CAD passed over for Raytheon in an apparent breach of bidding protocol.

Did New Delhi only buy the AT3 software and not the whole system, as CAD had claimed?

So, some answers please! And CAD, don’t bother to start a witch hunt, as you have imposed a gag order on your staff. None of those readers work for you.