Flights go off radar screen

Calcutta: Flights have been randomly disappearing from the secondary radar screen of the city airport prompting fears of mid-air mishaps, but the authorities have turned a blind eye.
“Our radar system is working fine,” said P.K. Singhal, the regional executive director (eastern region) of the Airports Authority of India, though other senior officials, on condition of anonymity, admitted to the vanishing act and blamed it on a snag in the airport’s secondary radar in Berhampore, Orissa.
“We are trying to identify the snag and fix it,” said an official.
A senior official at the airport said the secondary radar at Berhampore was installed in 2004 and commissioned two years later. “It’s functioning has never been satisfactory. There are dark zones in its coverage area, with obstacles like hills preventing proper transmission of signals,” the official said.
Sources said at least five flights had gone missing from the screen over the past few days though the air traffic control (ATC) had confirmed that all were in the airspace covered by the secondary or Area South radar in Berhampore.
The radar, with its monitor at Calcutta airport, covers a radius of around 200 nautical miles and gives the altitude and speed of overflying aircraft. “If the ATC is in the dark about an aircraft’s position it can assign a similar altitude to another plane, leading to a disaster,” an official warned.
On April 26, a Lufthansa flight from Bangkok to Frankfurt suddenly vanished from the screen around 12.30am.
A short while later, a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Paris “disappeared” from the screen.
Around noon on Saturday, a Kingfisher flight from Mumbai to Bhubaneswar was flying through Calcutta’s flight information range.
Late on Saturday, a Kenya Airways flight from Bangkok to Nairobi remained invisible on the screen throughout its journey through the Area South radar range.
A few days back, the ATC officials were unaware that a Singapore Airlines flight from Singapore to Milan had entered Calcutta’s flight information range.

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~ by anand213 on May 4, 2009.

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