Ground controllers at Melbourne Airport, Australia, lost communication with airplanes on the tarmac earlier this month following a failure in the ground radar system.
Independent senator Nick Xenophon informed a senate estimates committee about the incident that occurred on February 13 at approximately 10pm.
Xenophon was quoted by the Herald Sun as saying: “I am told that the ground controller, although very calm, advised that they had lost all information pertaining to aircraft movements.
“If this was a foggy night in Melbourne, it could have been potentially quite a serious incident.”
At least ten planes were taxiing on the tarmac at the time of failure of communication.
It was also revealed that the Board of Air Services Australia had decided to move 20 air traffic control jobs from Adelaide to Melbourne even before a full safety study was completed.
The Herald Sun quoted South Australian Labor senator Penny Wong as saying that she could not understand how the decision could be made before a safety study was completed.
“I don’t understand how you can make a decision to change arrangements, assert that they’re safe before any safety case has been undertaken,” she said.
Air Services Australia’s executive general manager of air traffic control Greg Hood said that the loss of information occurred due to bad weather.
“My understanding on that night in question was that there was thunderstorm activity and a number of aircraft that were taxiing in from the runway were unable to reach their gate,” he said.
Following the incident, Hood told the committee that the software had now been updated with electronic strips that track planes and recognize them for five hours.