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Air Traffic Blackout Report Finds Network Wasn't Up To Scratch

A report into an air traffic control blackout that grounded domestic flights found Airways' digital data network lacked necessary resilience.

A Transport Accident Investigation Commission report said the state-owned air traffic controller also had not prepared for the scenario which led to scores of flights being grounded and hours of disruption in June 2015.

"The controllers had trained for scenarios in which they lost radio communications or surveillance systems, but not both simultaneously."

During the outage, air traffic sector controllers in the national air traffic management centre at Christchurch lost radar and radio contact with the aircraft under their control.

Although the sector controllers had alternative radio frequencies and standby radios to contact aircraft, not all of these systems worked as expected, the commission found.

The telephone system was also disrupted by the outage, which prevented normal communication between the sector controllers and the airport control towers around New Zealand.

"This incident could have presented a significant risk to the safety of air transport if the network had not recovered after a few minutes," the report said

It was fortunate the outage occurred in daytime while the weather across the country was good and before the evening peak.

"These factors minimised the potential consequences," the report said.

The report also found Civil Aviation Authority rules were not suited to new technology used to control air traffic. Both Airways and the CAA had bought in new measures or hired new staff to try to avoid a repeat of the incident.

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