No blanking of airspace over Delhi last week: Patel



New Delhi: There was no blanking of airspace over Delhi last week and British Prime Minister David Cameron's aircraft did not face any trouble, government said in Rajya Sabha today.

"Nothing of that sort happened," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said replying to questions after a calling attention motion on safety problems being faced by airlines after the Mangalore aircrash.

The flight of the Boeing-747 carrying the British Premier was "continuously monitored" and "there was no blanking of airspace", he said when members asked about reports that a radar glitch delayed his landing. The Auto Trac-III system had failed last week.

The Auto Trac-III computer system of the Air Traffic Control, which is under validation trial, had developed problem but the Auto Trac-II continued to function.

The Minister said both these were "parallel systems".

Describing the Mangalore air crash as a "blemish" in the safety record which the government has been maintaining for the last ten years, Patel said "it is important to learn from the mistakes".

The minister dismissed members' concerns about safety at unlicensed airports, saying all international regulations were being complied with while constructing the airports.

He said getting license was a time consuming process but it did not mean that if an airport does not have a license, it does not comply with international norms.

Patel also denied reports of near-misses saying "no air proximity incident has taken place in the last few years".

On the shortage of the ATC personnel, Patel said that of the sanctioned strength of 2100, there are 1912 ATCOs of which 230 were in Mumbai and 216 in Delhi.

"If there are shortcomings, we are supposed to correct it. This is not to brush under the carpet," Patel asserted and said the government was in the process of framing fresh regulations to ensure that safety was not compromised on account of financial distress faced by the airline industry.

The DGCA has decided to carry out a special audit of airports identified as critical on a priority basis and review thoroughly the system and facilities at these aerodromes, he said in a statement tabled in the House.

Earlier, P Rajeeve (CPI-M) said that only 14 airports in the country have a license while his party colleague Moinul Hasan wanted to know the main reasons for the Mangalore crash in which claimed 158 lives on May 22. Mahendra Mohan (SP) also raised the issue of licensing of the airports.

PTI