Perhaps you might be interested in a recent report I received over a beer from a good contact in the US Military, who is sometimes passing through here. His news was confirmed with a nod and a wink by my contact in the relevant Ministry, so I thought I'd share. It's also doing the rounds of the regular aircrews by now too.
In early October, Oman's entire Air Traffic Control system, covering the whole damn country, went down for several hours, due to human error and sloppy procedures when operating the underlying IT system. The back-up system failed too. All the poor controllers had left were radio communications with the planes and basic radar, which just gives blips on the screen and no data like call sign, aircraft type or even airspeed - vital data for the way aircraft are controlled in our airspace.
In fact, it seems that for a while it's likely that Oman's air traffic controllers were basically 'flying blind', without even the basic radar.
Photo: Oman Air Traffic controllers have apparently had several near-misses this year, aka 'airprox events'
The event is being followed up by the appropriate authorities, of course, but because no aircraft actually crashed, and this being Oman, it's being hushed up somewhat. Afterall, it was all OK in the end. Yani!! Mafi mushkala!! (or perhaps Hakuna Mattata?)
International airlines have responded to the incident by unofficially suspending the ban on in-flight smoking while in Oman airspace. An unofficial spokeman for one airline, who declined to be named, said:
"We figured, what the hell. After all, it could be our last chance for a bloody cigarette, so everyone can now just go for it. The crew won't say anything until we're safely outside Omani airspace."
Now, joking aside, air traffic controllers - even ours - do train for such situations. And the planes themselves also have a basic Traffic alert and Collision Avoidance System or TCAS (thank's to the International Civil Aviation Organization, after a few mid-air collisions in the 70s and 80s).
And I have every confidence things will improve after lessons have been learnt...
I also see that there wasn't a report (yet) made to the Aviation Safety Reporting System (a voluntary international confidential near miss reporting website run by NASA) either. Tsk tsk.
One for the Muscat Daily to follow-up on? I'd love to read an official version of what happened...