Battery failure knocks off Okinawa radar for 100 minutes
August 14, 2003
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — A battery providing power to the radar system here failed Friday, forcing Okinawa Radar Approach Control to switch to non-radar operations.
The failure lasted for 1 hour and 40 minutes, resulting in the delay of commercial flights at Naha International Airport, 18th Wing spokesman Charles Steitz said.
Air Force air traffic controllers handle all civilian and military aircraft arriving and departing the island, Steitz said.
“The area of responsibility includes airspace out to approximately 50 miles from Kadena and up to 20,000 feet,” he said. “Prior to reaching this 50-mile boundary, arriving aircraft are controlled by the (Japanese) Naha Air Control Center.”
Last Friday’s glitch occurred at 6:10 p.m., Steitz said.
Naha International Airport spokesman Tetsukazu Taki said the air-control service resumed at 7:50 p.m.
“A total of 21 flights were affected; 11 outgoing and nine incoming flights were delayed and one flight was canceled,” Taki said. “The maximum delay was 1 hour and 32 minutes for an outgoing flight and 39 minutes for an incoming flight.”
The Air Force continued air traffic control by switching the operation to a nonradar control method in compliance with international civilian aviation standards, Taki said.
With radar, controllers can allow aircraft to land within minutes of each other. Without long-range radar, incoming aircraft are spaced 81 miles apart or land at 10-minute intervals to keep the planes from colliding.
Each time there is a problem with the control, operations at the Naha airport are affected.
In March 2002, 27 Japanese commercial aircraft were delayed up to 2½ hours due to a Kadena power outage.
The worst delays were experienced in 1999 when construction workers severed an underground cable from the radar to the operations center, disrupting air traffic for three days, a Naha airport spokesman said.
Kadena’s Radar Approach Control handles about 300 civilian and 200 military flights daily, making controllers the busiest in the Pacific Air Forces, according to Air Force officials.
The control’s area of responsibility includes Kadena Air Base, the Marine Corps Air Station at Futenma, Naha International and two other small airports on islands off Okinawa.
The U.S. and Japan are in the middle of discussions to eventually transfer operations to Japanese controllers at Naha.
Chiyomi Sumida contributed to this report.