MANILA, Philippines—Several domestic and international flights at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport have been delayed due to defective equipment used by air traffic controllers, according to an official of the Manila International Airport Authority.
According to the source, who asked not to be identified by name for lack of authority to speak on the matter, the airport’s terminal radar data display (TRDD) has been “unserviceable” since January 2.
He said the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines has advised airline companies that it would take about until the end of the month to fix the equipment.
Because of the damaged equipment, air traffic controllers are forced to increase the time between plane landings as well as between takeoffs, a procedure that causes delays, especially during peak hours.
“Air traffic controllers are forced to space out the airplanes father apart, causing delays in both arrivals and departures,” the source told the Inquirer.
The TRDD is a piece of equipment used by air traffic controllers to identify aircraft within 60 miles of the NAIA.
It processes data from various radars scattered over the Philippines and presents an aircraft’s position, altitude, ground speed, among other information needed by the air traffic controllers to control either the arrival or departure of airplanes.
“The equipment is used by air traffic controllers to guide the pilots,” the source said.
But both the CAAP and the flag carrier Philippine Airlines agreed that the busted equipment is no big deal and does not pose a threat to safety of the passengers.
“That equipment is also called the secondary surveillance radar. It was just placed there for added convenience for air traffic controllers, but with or without it, the operation and the work of air traffic controllers in guiding the pilots could proceed as usual,” CAAP director general Ramon Gutierrez said.
“This should not be a cause for alarm,” he said, adding that they were trying to have the system repaired at the soonest possible time.
Gutierrez added that flight delays were also caused by the increased flights to and from Manila especially during the holiday season.
This was echoed by PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna, who said: “The flight delays were mainly due to air traffic congestion especially since it’s peak season in December and January. Our regular 140 flights a day increased to 165 to 170 flights a day during the holidays.”
“And besides, the busted radar was not the sole equipment that guides the air traffic controllers and pilots. There are other sources of information which the traffic controllers could use to guide the pilots,” Villaluna told the Inquirer.