CAAP, DOTr eye new backup air traffic management system by Q1 2023

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Metro Manila (CNN Philippines, January 12) — The Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) and the Department of Transportation (DOTr) are eyeing the procurement of a backup air traffic management system in the first quarter of 2023 following the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) technical breakdown on New Year's Day.

"The DOTr and the CAAP are planning to procure a second CNS/ATM [Communications, Navigation and Surveillance Systems for Air Traffic Management] which will act as a redundancy for the Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC)," CAAP Director General Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo told the Senate during its probe into the fiasco that affected 65,000 passengers.

During the Senate hearing, CAAP Assistant Director General Marlene Singson bared that the CNS/ATM currently has no independent backup or redundancy.

"CAAP has already initiated measures to ensure systems redundancy and upgrade in the existing CNS/ATM. DOTr and CAAP met with the system supplier last Jan. 5 to finalize the terms. The target completion is the first quarter of 2023," he added.

The government first procured the two packages of the CNS/ATM in 2009 for some ₱10 billion. While it began construction in 2010, the Commission on Audit issued a notice of disallowance on the project, delaying it.

It resumed construction in 2013, was completed and turned over to the CAAP in 2017, and finally inaugurated in 2018.

Tamayo earlier described the system as "outdated". Meanwhile, Transport Secretary Jaime Bautista said over ₱13 billion would be needed to backup the CNS/ATM.

READ: NAIA operations struggle even as air traffic center resumes after New Year's Day glitch

No third party maintenance since 2020

It was also reported that the very CNS/ATM system that broke down hadn't seen third-party maintenance by its suppliers, the Sumitomo and Thales groups, since 2020.

"The CNS/ATM had a warranty that expired in 2020 and it was only up to that time that they were providing support as far as the CNS/ATM is concerned," Tamayo said Thursday.

The CAAP added that its personnel had been trained by Thales group to conduct system maintenance.

Sumitomo group representative Atty. Lloyd Chadwick Lim said it would have been beneficial if the CAAP had conducted maintenance on its systems with the help of experts.

"There is actually in the operations and maintenance manual periodic checks for daily, weekly, and monthly components," Lim explained, referring to the third-party maintenance schedules for the CNS/ATM.

A similar scenario had taken place with the uninterruptible power system (UPS) behind the CNS/ATM, the CAAP said.

Upon questioning from Sen. Grace Poe, CAAP bared that the NAIA's UPS system had last been checked by UPS suppliers P2RO two years ago, when they changed the power system's batteries.

The CAAP earlier made an emergency purchase of two UPS units to prevent further power failures.

READ: CAAP buys two UPS units after NAIA fiasco