Friday, November 6, 2009

More on the Air Traffic Control meltdown. Near misses common events in Oman

Well, as the manhunt continues within the Ministry and Muscat ATC for the sources of Muscat Confidential's latest story on Oman's sorry state of Air Traffic Control, a few other people have also come forward with ... both 100% confirmation of what happened, and additional details of both the flying blind event in October and in general. [You know who you are - thank you]

A near miss or Airprox event happened when the Oman Air VIP flight was showing off the new Airbus to HE the Minister and various important people. While cruising comfortably along in the custody of Oman Air Traffic Control, a sudden high acceleration evasive maneuver was taken by the pilots to avoid a mid-air collision situation, causing the VIPs to almost spill their champagne, and hardly unnoticed by those on board.

It was also not the only near miss.

Photo: Near misses due to Oman ATC errors are routinely covered up, say our sources

We await Muscat Daily's follow-up report* on such a worrying problem and the civil service cover-up, a situation potentially impacting not just the safety of all those who fly through or over Oman, but also the reputation of the whole country wrt tourism and business.

Here are some key questions they could simply ask the appropriate Government Authorities:
- for how long was Oman without an effective ATC system in October 2009?
- what were the real reasons for the Minister's Oman Air flight having to take evasive action?
- how many near miss events happened when the ATC system was down?
- what are the qualifications of the Senior System engineer responsible for the ATC system, and why was a junior engineer allowed access to the master passwords?
- Why is the senior engineer still in his job after such a blatant breach of standard operating procedures (SOPs)?
- who is responsible for ensuring near miss events are properly reported and that international standards are adhered to? IS the non-reporting of near miss events part of Oman ATC Standard Procedures?
- what is the actual back up system if there is a catastrophic failure of the only radar thingy, or of the main computer system (say by flood or fire)?

Interested parties might also want to see if the recommendations made in the independent review by top-notch international Swedish Consultants have been addressed or even shared with those accountable for the safety of Oman's ATC system? (Hint: Mr Minister, or even Council of Ministers - Ask to see an unedited version of the comprehensive Swedavia report. If the findings themselves don't scare you, the clear attempt to hide the report from the powers that be should perhaps be of even greater concern...)

I found it rather ironic that coincidentally, on 13-15th October, the Ministry of Transport and Communication was hosting the Trans-Oman conference "the Sultanate’s first comprehensive event providing access to cutting-edge solutions, services and infrastructure especially designed for the transport, shipping, aviation and logistics industry!" I'd LMAO if I didn't fly so often.

TRANSOMAN is not just an exhibition. It is a forum to discuss industry issues; discover the latest trends; connect and do business with various suppliers and service providers in the air, road, rail, shipping, customs, cargo and logistics businesses, connecting Oman, the rest of the region and beyond.

* or lets face it, any of Oman's media. This is a big story. Perhaps our friends in the UAE would be more willing and able to follow up this? A few phone calls is all it would take, plus interviews with the UAE or Indian ATCs who of course had to be informed that Oman airspace was temporarily unable to accept new planes for a while.


  1. cripes - thank goodness a pacaderm wasn't involved

  2. well UD any of the foreign airlines operating in the oman skies at that time would have to report the incident .. am i right?

    Now i am sure those reports should be lying somewhere... if this did happen..

  3. TWIS
    Yo. Pass it left.

    Good point. Appreciate comments from air crew, ... because what do the pilots think??

  4. Kudos, UD for yet another scoop. It is surprising that they don't have an alternative to fall back.
    Hope the problem is sorted out fast.

  5. Sorry folks - was stuck in Bangla-fucking-desh.

    What can I say?
    It happens from time to time but the main questions in this case, should be "Why?"
    .......and "how do we fix it?"

    Let's be careful out there!


  6. Dragon- what do you expect when 1) the main qualification for getting a job is that you are a relative of the person doing the hiring, and 2) you're not accountable to anyone for anything?

  7. Re-posting this comment from the first in this series: UD

    Let me clarify. That an individual ATC sometimes makes errors that might result in a near miss, or potential near miss, that's life. It happens, I'm sure, everywhere. Individual ATCs have a famously difficult and stressful job. And Pilots often don't do what they are told either. [But I would expect that such errors are quickly detected and lessons learnt, at least within ATC].

    But we're talking about the whole Muscat ATC System. Such a system would resonably be expected to be robust by design and operation.

    So, when the senior engineer is not (apparently) sufficiently qualified to perform as required, that's a problem. When said engineer demonstrates that inability by enabling the whole system to be shut down for over 2 hours, and remains in his job, that's a bigger problem.

    When the whole Muscat ATC system has zero physical redundancy to unexpected failure of the radar, or the computer systems (fire/flood), and the result would be no ATC system for weeks, that's a problem.

    When something goes wrong (as it did in October) and SOPs for that situation are not followed by senior controllers, that's a problem.

    When an external expert consultancy identifies a whole load of problems with the ATC system, but the report is then kept secret and not actioned just because it makes people look bad, that's a problem.

    The end result of the above was that our entire system went down, reportedly leaving ATC totally blind for around 30 mins and effectively blind for a further 2 hours. In the process there were several near misses, and SOPs not followed.

    But it seems the focus is on covering it up, and hoping it doesn't happen again, rather than really identifying and facing up to fixing the core problems. As someone who flys a lot in Oman airspace, that's a problem...

  8. I can help. I have 40 years of ATC experience and knowledge. I was an ATC consultant with Boeing, Lockheed/Martin, and the U.N. (ICAO). in Jeddah. My experience is in every aspect of ATC at the highest levels of traffic and complexity. Let me know.
    Tom Bonacki,,,,,

  9. dragon, I'm an air traffic control and i just have to let to know ... during that day there was a catastrophic radar failure and when it happens suddenly in times of dense traffic flow a near miss incident will happen.Air incidents happen all over the world it happens in even in the best facilities with highly trained atco and fail safe procedures heathrow , dallas, new york, tokyo, over airspaces of brazil germany sweden UAE. It happens, thanks to God for TCAS it helps. Pilots and air traffic controllers do do their best, let me tell you in oman we have peak periods of high density of traffic in a highly complex airspace with not so very excellent tools and facilities but we manage, we are overworked sometimes but we manage. Things are changing a bit slow but they are changing there are fail safe measures being taken, systems designs, airspace and routing within the TMA and the FIR are being changed and upgraded to make the whole experience safer I hope you realize the Qatar, Emirates, Etihad, Jet airways, Arabia Airways, even Oman Air have drastically increased the number of aircrafts they operate take all this into consideration and remember it HAPPENS all over the world its PART OF THE JOB we just have to try to make the system better. Your critisms are uncalled for especially about tourism cause you need to do it justly if you want to report about atc do a proper research job and compare it how safer is oman to other countries all over the world. JUS google it lol more so if you want to critize compare salaries between Omanis and expatriates yet we both do the same job to the best of our abilities and contrary to popular belief we are highly trained professional unlike how this whole blog makes it sound . Hopefully a change is going to come (it is happening at the moment)...a little late but it will, better radar facilities, frequencies, airspace designs, divisions and sectors, air traffic flow management its all being considered the hitch is bureaucratic procedures as you might well be aware but change is gonna come... I hope.


If you wish to post anonymously, please pick a nickname by selecting the Name/URL option, or at least sign off your comment with one! I will delete comments I find objectionable or needlessly inflammatory. Sorry for the word verification.... OMG the spam has gotten BAD these past 12 months... trying to avoid making one log in...