Control Tower equipment not functioning effectively
Despite million$$ spent…
Equipment costing close to $1B which were installed over the past two years by government at the Civil Aviation Authority control tower, Timehri, are not functioning to full capacity, according to Flight Control Officers.
Though, admitting that their operations have improved with the communication and navigation equipment by at least 200 percent, they contended value for money is lacking. This is primarily because of the absence of real time surveillance capability and constant failures of programmes.
“The navigation aspect is fine, sending its signal…The communication is basically okay… The surveillance capability is there but they haven’t paid for the satellite service and did not install some key components that allow us to see aircraft in real time,” said a flight control officer.
According to Civil Aviation Authority Chief Executive Officer, Zulfikar Mohammed, modernization of equipment and building commenced in 2010. It primarily focused on the enhancement of equipment that were installed about 30 years ago.
The upgrade has about two more years and will require Government to spend about $500M more.
“In the end we will have modern equipment that is compatible to what is required by International Civil Aviation,” Mohammed said.
He related that under Civil Aviation Authority’s Communication Navigation and Surveillance plan, communication and navigation equipment have been purchased. The surveillance equipment is yet to be in place but the platform exists. The surveillance equipment is proposed in Civil Aviation Authority’s budget for next year.
“So far, we have changed all our communication equipment-radios which communicate with the aircraft; also the data and voice links between contiguous states- Suriname, Trinidad, Venezuela and Brazil… The equipment allowing the transfer and receipt of data has been changed.”
“The navigation aspect is VOR/DME. We had the VOR but no DME. The VOR gives the aircraft direction- it’s a homing beacon that aircraft tunes into and it could fly towards that. The DME tells the distance away from that homing device. The DME is used by aircraft controllers to narrow down you separation standards, distance and time as well as altitude,” Mohammed said.
It is projected that by 2014 the tower will be at the level of surveillance capability where aircrafts will be seen in real time. In the interim, estimates and mappings, which require manual input of data to show the position of aircrafts, are being used.
Flight Control Officers, who believe that the project is being poorly managed, said this is unacceptable. They contended that all components of the project could have been met if money was used to purchase equipment for each component.
“There were some officers who observed where things were heading but warnings were not heeded. We end up in a predicament where we have the equipment but they do not function to its full capacity,” one officer stated.
He lamented, “We haven’t gotten value for money. We could have gotten more. They can’t even commission the equipment yet because it is not functioning effectively.”
It was noted that equipment were installed in April 2011 but still changes are being made to modify the equipment. Intelcan, the company that was awarded the contract, constantly has to rewrite programmes for the equipment which are mainly computer base.
“We don’t know if the programme manager didn’t explain to the people properly because some of the programmes don’t function as they should. Everything we have to call the people and make changes and these changes are not simple changes, they have to go back and write computer programmes. When you put in one command you are getting another. It’s all computer based so it takes time. It is not a one size fit all,” they stressed.
There is a two-year warrantee on the equipment but there is a possibility the warrantee will be up and the company will still have to write programmes, which will be costly.
Another problem that affects operations at the control tower is limited human resources. With the implementation of the new equipment, officers had warned Civil Aviation Authority that more staff members were needed. But, again their requests were not heeded and as such staff cannot focus on flight control.