Glitch tem­po­rar­ily grounds all air­craft in NZ


All com­mer­cial and civil­ian air­craft in New Zealand were tem­po­rar­ily grounded on Tues­day when a fault crip­pled the na­tion’s air traf­fic con­trol sys­tem, caus­ing long de­lays and some can­cel­la­tions.

Air­ways New Zealand, which man­ages air traf­fic con­trol in the South Pa­cific coun­try, said all flights, in­clud­ing in­ter­na­tional and do­mes­tic ser­vices, were af­fected.

The gov­ern­ment agency in­sisted no planes or pas­sen­gers were in dan­ger dur­ing the out­age, which lasted more than two hours and left air traf­fic con­trollers with­out any radar.

As a re­sult, all flights were banned from tak­ing off and those al­ready in the air were guided down us­ing “vis­ual man­ual sep­a­ra­tion” — us­ing eye­sight and ra­dio con­tact — the Civil Avi­a­tion Au­thor­ity (CAA) said.

Air­ways NZ blamed the prob- lem on “an in­ter­nal net­work fail­ure.”

“Air­ways im­me­di­ately sus­pended all flights while we in­ves­ti­gated the is­sue and un­til we could be sat­is­fied that we could op­er­ate safely,” it said.

“We have now iden­ti­fied the is­sue and thor­oughly tested the in­tegrity of the sys­tem.”

Trans­port Min­is­ter Si­mon Bridges said air traf­fic con­trollers com­mu­ni­cated with flights via ra­dio dur­ing the radar out­age, also stress­ing there was “ab­so­lutely no com­pro­mise to the safety of pas­sen­gers or planes.”

But the CAA said it was con­cerned about the in­ci­dent and had launched a safety in­ves­ti­ga­tion.

A CAA spokesman said he was un­aware of any sim­i­lar fail­ures in the past and it was be­ing treated se­ri­ously.

“We’ll cer­tainly be very keen to find out ex­actly what hap­pened,” he told AFP.

Asked whether such a scare was un­ac­cept­able to the trav­el­ing public, he re­sponded: “Ab­so­lutely.”

Long De­lays

Lo­cal media re­ported close to 200 flights were af­fected, with long de­lays and some can­cel­la­tions at air­ports around the coun­try.

Pas­sen­ger Paul Le Comte was await­ing take-off at Christchurch air­port when the ban was im­posed and said he and his fel­low pas­sen­gers ex­pe­ri­enced a num­ber of false starts be­fore fi­nally de­part­ing.

“Looks like Air­ways NZ has found the ex­ten­sion cord for the radar that the clean­ing lady kicked out. We are tak­ing off soon baby. Thanks,” he joked on Twit­ter.

Anna Smith told Ra­dio New Zealand she was try­ing to travel from Welling­ton to Hawke’s Bay for a fu­neral.

“We don’t have many op­tions at the mo­ment ... un­til we get to the front of the queue we won’t re­ally know what’s hap­pen­ing,” she said.

Air New Zealand said 160 of its flights were af­fected and it would take time for the back­log to clear.

Auck­land air­port, the coun­try’s largest, warned trav­el­ers to ex­pect de­lays, while Christchurch air­port ad­vised them to con­tact air­lines for flight in­for­ma­tion.

Salis Elias told TVNZ he was con­cerned by the rea­son for his plane’s de­layed de­par­ture from Auck­land but was mak­ing the most of the sit­u­a­tion.

“How do planes in the sky land with­out radar?” he asked. “Like all good Ki­wis in a cri­sis, we’re head­ing to the pub to make con­tin­gency plans.”

Air­ways NZ’s web­site says it man­ages 30 mil­lion square kilo­me­ters (nearly 12 mil­lion square miles) of airspace, han­dling about one mil­lion air­craft move­ments an­nu­ally.

“Air­ways NZ apol­o­gizes to all pas­sen­gers who have been af­fected by this out­age,” it said in a state­ment.

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