9-minute blackout grips isle air radar
Honolulu air traffic control goes low tech to manage the planes
Radar screens blacked out at the state's airports for nine minutes on Thursday, forcing air traffic controllers to direct passenger planes above Hawaii using just scraps of paper.
Despite the potential for disaster, there were no close calls nor a single reportable delay, which is defined by a minimum 15-minute postponement, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Ian Gregor said last night.
The blackout started at about noon as 47 planes were in Hawaii airspace, Gregor said in a phone interview from the mainland.
"Nothing like this has ever happened (in Hawaii) before," he said. "When the radar went down, the radar scopes went black like a computer being rebooted."
The blackout occurred while a technician was working on radar equipment in Honolulu that monitors airspace for the state, Gregor said.
Federal officials are trying to determine whether the technician made an error or if the repair procedures being using were flawed. Either way, the problem has been resolved and will not recur, Gregor said.
After the scopes failed, traffic controllers maintained radio contact with planes and kept them at different altitudes.
Traffic controllers used strips of paper to show each aircraft's type and location. They directed planes to land one at a time.
"Controllers, supervisors, managers on duty did a terrific job," Gregor said. "Everybody was properly trained. Everybody did a fantastic job in responding to the problem."
The problem was found and the system rebooted, he said.
The emergency occurred about 15 minutes before a noon rush when the number of planes in the air double, Gregor said.
Departures were grounded until the emergency passed.