Sep 202014
 

http://wikileaks.org/cable/2009/09/09MANILA1966.html#
Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
09MANILA1966
2009-09-15 09:54
2011-08-30 01:44
UNCLASSIFIED//FOR OFFICIAL USE ONLY
Embassy Manila

VZCZCXRO5657
OO RUEHCHI RUEHCN RUEHDT RUEHHM
DE RUEHML #1966 2580954
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 150954Z SEP 09
FM AMEMBASSY MANILA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5186
INFO RULSDMK/DEPT OF TRANSPORTATION WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUCPDOC/USDOC WASHDC IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/TSA HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RHMFIUU/FAA NATIONAL HQ WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
RUEHZS/ASSOCIATION OF SOUTHEAST ASIAN NATIONS IMMEDIATE
RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO IMMEDIATE 3731
UNCLAS MANILA 001966

STATE FOR EAP/MTS AND EB/TRA
SINGAPORE AND TOKYO FOR FAA
COMMERCE FOR BERLINGUETTE

SENSITIVE, SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: EAIR ECON EINV ETRD RP
SUBJECT: Power Outage Highlights Philippine Air Safety Vulnerability

REF: Manila 01390

¶1. (SBU) Summary: Insufficient backup generators to handle a
brief power outage caused the failure of long range radar and
communication systems at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport
(NAIA), delaying or cancelling 20 long-haul flights on September 13
and 14. The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and the
Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) restored most
flight operations early morning on September 14. Spurred by
President Macapagal-Arroyo’s demand for an investigation into the
incident, aviation authorities point to outdated systems and poor
power supply. The deployment of a new state-of-the-art air safety
system is in its preliminary stages. International Civil Aviation
Organization (ICAO) and European Union (EU) inspectors are due to
review the Philippine air safety system in October and November,
respectively. End Summary.

Chain Reaction of Air Safety Concerns
—————————————
¶2. (SBU) On the afternoon of September 13, power fluctuations at
NAIA triggered a chain reaction that temporarily impeded
communications between pilots and the air traffic center and
disabled the long-range radar system. The CAAP issued a Notice to
Airmen about the failure and all planes were grounded until the
airport authority restored communication between the air traffic
control, pilots, and the international hotlines that provide safety
redundancy between pilots and their own airline communications
personnel. Within six hours, airport authorities resumed partial
operations using restored communications links and a medium-range
approach radar to guide aircraft, according to official sources.

Delays and Effect on International Flights
——————————————-
¶3. (U) The radar and communications failure delayed or rerouted 20
long-haul international and domestic passenger flights, including
one Continental Airlines flight from Guam. Several cargo planes
were also diverted to other airports.

¶4. (SBU) Although MIAA and CAAP official permitted the restoration
of operations, they acknowledge that two of the four radar screens,
as well as the long-range radar, are still not working. NAIA is
operating under a “flow control” system limiting arrivals and
departures at five-minute intervals, rather than the normal
two-minute intervals. Industry sources note altitude restrictions
remain in place due to the dependence by MIAA on the medium-range
approach radar.

Arroyo Orders Investigation in Advance of Planned ICAO and EU
Inspections
————————————-

¶5. (SBU) The timing of this air safety system failure bodes ill
for the upcoming safety reviews of the Philippines by ICAO in
October and the EU aviation authorities in November. The U.S.
Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded the Philippines to
Category 2 in January 2008 because of serious air safety
deficiencies. CAAP has requested postponements of the ICAO visit
three times. Two were granted, but the third request was denied.

¶6. (SBU) President Arroyo’s order for an investigation into the
incident may help accelerate the replacement of the airport’s
communications, navigation and air traffic management systems. CAAP
is expediting the procurement process for this new, Japan-financed
project by shortening the window for submission of bids from 90 to
60 days. Embassy Manila is advocating for Raytheon as the sole U.S.
participant in one of four international consortiums bidding on the
220 million dollar radar and power system contract. If deployed,
its state-of-the-art AutoTrac III system would significantly improve
air safety in the Philippines.

¶7. (SBU) COMMENT: This latest air safety failure points to
continuing deep-seated problems within the CAAP (reftel). It may
also be embarrassing enough to focus the authorities’ attention on
resolving long-standing deficiencies. The civil aviation sector
serves as a microcosm of the wider Philippine environment in which
infrastructure development and safety are hampered by poor
governance. End Comment.

KENNEY

   

 

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