Minor software glitch triggers flight delays at Changi Airport

Minor software glitch triggers flight delays at Changi Airport

A “minor software glitch” in a new radar system led to flights being delayed from taking off or landing at Changi Airport on Monday morning.

The Long Range Radar Display System (Lorads) III, which went live only last month, is an upgrade from the previous air traffic control system and is designed to be able to handle a higher volume of traffic.

A Civil Aviation Authority of Singapore (CAAS) spokesman said the glitch, which happened at 10.50am, “resulted in some flight delays”. By 1pm, the system was up and running as usual again, the spokesman added.

A check on the Changi Airport flight status website showed that there were six flights with delayed take-offs during this period. The delays ranged from 50 minutes to two hours. Another 10 arriving flights landed between 30 and 45 minutes later than scheduled.

According to Mr Paul Yap, the course manager of Aviation Management and Services at Temasek Polytechnic (TP), Lorads III is a very “powerful” system with many advantages over previous systems. One of them is its ability to prompt air traffic controllers of possible collisions between aircraft, and devising solutions to avoid them, he said.

The glitch in Lorads III could have made traffic control less efficient, and “caused some disruption to the normal operations, particularly in the initial transition to the back up systems”, Mr Yap said.

Some of these contingency procedures include radio communication and a computer messaging system similar to that of taxis.

Mr Gary Ho, TP’s senior lecturer in the same course, said the aviation industry is “one of the most ‘kiasu’ and ‘kiasi’ industries in the world”.

“Even if everything breaks down in the control tower, there are still manual procedures where you can still fire red light or green light to signal stop and go.

“The light is fired by a light gun with a cross hair, so you can just aim it at a plane or a pilot,” the former air traffic controller said. In addition, aircraft may be separated further from each other when following a non-radar procedure to provide an “equivalent level of safety”, Mr Yap said.

“Let’s put it this way: even with the radar system, there’s a chance of things going wrong. Sometimes, people get complacent with technology.

“With a non-radar system, safety may be enhanced as pilots are forced to be even more alert and careful than usual,” he said.

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