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Probe into airport disruption digs out a rat

Juhu Officials find rodent-destroyed cables caused 3-hour communication blackout.

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Public works minister Chhagan Bhujbal, who had to suffer a three-hour delay at Juhu airport last week due to a total communication blackout, should be blaming rodents for the incident.

A probe into the glitch caused due to a short circuit has been traced to excreta of pests, most probably rats.

A team of officials from Communication Navigation and Surveillance department of the Airports Authority of India, which runs the airport, investigated into the case. The report is expected to be handed over to higher authorities in Mumbai and the AAI headquarters in New Delhi soon.

Juhu airport officials said that three departure and eight arrivals of helicopters, including that of Bhujbal, were affected due to the incident. The minister was reportedly on his way to visit drought-affected regions of Maharashtra.

Officials said more helicopters would have been hit had it not been a Sunday, when operations are minimum.

Sources said Juhu airport, the oldest civilian airport in the country, has two sets of very high-frequency (VHF) devices which are used for instructing the helicopter pilots while landing and take-off. The devices are also called as Manpack by pilots and air traffic controllers. The officials said the primary VHF device, which has several cable wires inside it, was destroyed by rodents, exposing the metal wires. Rodents’ excreta could have created a situation for the short circuit.

Sources said the matter was aggravated by the absence of a back-up VHF device as it had been taken out for repair in November but had not been replaced. “The back-up system could have at least restarted the flight operations quickly rather than the three-hour wait to bring everything back to normal,” said sources from the airport.

The airport officials, who found the glitch around 7.30 am, initially suspected that the snag happened due to some mechanical problem as even the telephone lines were  disrupted.

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