Minister orders probe of Suvarnabhumi power system failure


BANGKOK, June 22 —  In an attempt to restore confidence among airlines and passengers following Thursday’s power system failure at Suvarnabhumi Airport, Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan on Friday ordered a probe into the incident with results to be concluded within 15 days.

The problem caused delays for 50 flights and forced 13 aircraft to land elsewhere — six flights at U-Tapao Airport, two each to Chiang Mai International Airport, Phuket International Airport and Malaysia’s Kuala Lumpur International Airport, as well as one at Cambodia’s Siem Reap International Airport.

The probe will be headed by Silpachai Jarukasemra, permanent secretary for transport, together with a special fact-finding committee, including experts.

The investigation will examine causes of the incident, whether or not were related to technical glitches, accidents or human error, as well as providing short-, medium- and long-term measures to prevent any repetition of such a problem, Mr Jarupong said.

Meanwhile, Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI) and Airports of Thailand (AoT) have been assigned to thoroughly study the incident and draft emergency management procedures for their staff to deal with such an emergency.

The order came after Mr Jarupong and Deputy Transport Minister Chadchart Sittipunt inspected the incident after the power supply from an uninterruptible power source (UPS) caused problems for radar controlling flights landing at the country’s main international airport, affecting operations of some 50 flights.

While experiencing the radar system failure, 21 flights were waiting, queuing to depart and take off at Suvarnabhumi Airport with the longest at 105 minutes, while 15 flights were in the air, queuing to land with delays of 30 minutes on average, while the longest delay was 71 minutes.

In a related development, Squadron Leader Prajak Sajjasophon, president of Aeronautical Radio of Thailand (AEROTHAI), admitted that such an incident occurred in 2008 when monitors of the closed-circuit television system experienced glitches.

The AEROTHAI chief explained that the latest incident resulted from the failure of the power supply from an uninterruptible power source (UPS) which disrupted the electrical power used for the air traffic control for half an hour, causing a radar system failure for both Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi airports.

As an initial solution, the officials applied the radio communication signal to manage the air traffic control in accordance with the emergency response plan.

The AEROTHAI president said that the life of the uninterruptible power source is seven years and that the UPS has been used for six years, admitting that some technical glitches which were beyond control might have occurred.

However, AEROTHAI has been improving the UPS system to 100 per cent prevent power failures which will be completed in August.

Following the incident, Suvarnabhumi Airport Director Somchai Sawasdeepon, denied that airlines asked for compensation, saying that AoT has already made an explanation to the airline operators that the incident was beyond capability.

Meanwhile, the ongoing runway maintenance was expected to be completed within August 9, Mr Somchai added.