Software glitches plague Aust air traffic control system

The Australian air traffic control system was blind for seven minutes last month, as software-related problems in the Australia-developed TAAATS (The Advanced Australian Air Traffic Systems) blanked out screens. Full commissioning of TAAATS across Australian air space is scheduled for the end of 1999.

Software-related problems with the Australia-developed TAAATS (The Advanced Australian Air Traffic Systems) blanked out four radar screens of 46 terminals for seven minutes last month.

In another glitch for the $A375 million ($US246.2 million) air traffic control project, the system went off-line for 20 minutes last week between Melbourne and Sydney.

A single terminal controlling several airspace sectors north of Melbourne went blank shortly after midnight as the system was shut down for maintenance.

“The consoles had been put on standby and one of these consoles was affected,” said Vicki Huggins, media spokeswoman for Airservices Australia.

“Air controllers were able to use procedural control, along with radar from an alternator as well as a console in another room,” she said.

“When upgrades are scheduled, we don’t shut down everything in that area, and the manager has already recommended that two consoles are always kept running.”

During the Brisbane incident, contingency arrangements were also put into place to ensure the integrity of the system and no breakdown of separation occurred.

In a statement, Airservices Australia maintains that “TAAATS features significant levels of redundancy to cope with a wide range of eventualities. Nevertheless, as a result of the Brisbane occurrence, a further level of redundancy is being established.”

TAAATS has been operational in Cairns and Brisbane for 12 months and has also been live in Melbourne since last December. Airservices Australia is starting to transition the system in Sydney from Perth to Adelaide.

The major centres are located in Melbourne and Brisbane, with smaller terminal units in Cairns, Sydney, Adelaide and Perth.

“These problems are just two of many glitches we expect as part of the transition,” Huggins said.

“A system this size will always have hiccups, and we have put into place contingencies to deal with problems,” she added.

“Airservices certainly hasn’t been able to forecast everything. However, system maintenance and data upgrades are not done in peak times; they are done in the middle of the night, so interruptions are minor,” Huggins said.

Full commissioning of TAAATS across Australian air space is scheduled for the end of 1999.

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