In case you missed it, the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) announced on Tuesday, May 2 that the Philippine airspace is scheduled for a shutdown on May 17 for “corrective maintenance activity” to be done at the Philippine Air Traffic Management Center (ATMC).
According to the released advisory, the major maintenance activity will be done to enhance the country's air traffic management system and would involve repairing the Automatic Voltage Regulator, replace the UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) and upgrading the ATMS (Air Traffic Management) A/B power supply.
“The ATMS power supply upgrade will involve the installation of a bypass panel to provide seamless ATMS operation and the reconfiguration of the existing distribution panel to segregate ATM system A (voice) and ATM system B (data), resulting with the UPS and AVR serving as each other’s backup in case the other power supply encounters a problem,” it added.
All operations were initially set to be suspended for six hours, starting from midnight to 6 a.m. on May 17. Bryan Co, the MIAA Senior Assistant General Manager, said in a news conference that the maintenance activity may be shorter than expected, and assured that the activity will run smoothly to avoid problems like what happened on New Year’s Day this year.
“These are all proactive efforts to, of course, make sure that the CNS/ATM (Communication, Navigation and Surveillance/Air Traffic Management) is reliable as an offshoot of what happened this year,” the MIAA OIC said.
On May 5, CAAP spokesman Eric Apolonio announced in a TeleRadyo interview that the planned shutdown will be shortened to two hours, starting at 2 a.m. and ending at 4 a.m.
"Tuloy po ito pero may maganda kaming balita kasi shutdown time umikli po ng 2-4 na lang," Apolonio said.
This will affect flights in three major airports in the country, namely Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA), Clark International Airport (CRK), and Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), and 42 other airports operated by CAAP.
According to CAAP spokesperson Eric Apolonio, they have given two-week notice to the concerned stakeholders like Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), Luzon International Premiere Airport Development Corp. (LIPAD), and GMR–Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC) to give room for necessary adjustments to avoid canceled flights that day.
“Two weeks kami nagbigay ng information sa kanila dapat i-adjust naman nila ang mga flights para hindi ma-inconvenience ang mga pasahero,” Apolonio said in an interview with Super Radyo dzBB.
Over a hundred flights will be affected
In a separate press briefing on Wednesday, May 3, Co announced that over a hundred flights are expected to be affected by the May 17 shutdown, given that it was still expected to last for six hours at that time.
“Based on our projection there will be around 130 flights that could be possibly affected. Based on the estimated passenger load, it will be around 20,000 passengers,” the MIAA OIC said.
The key, he said, is for the 40 airline operators who attended MIAA's meeting with stakeholders to do advanced planning.
“The message here is, since this is a planned outage to improve our air traffic system, we need to do this in a timely manner. That's why we've planned this ahead of time. So even if it's still May 17 we already issued the NOTAM last week and the airlines are already working on how they can reschedule their flights so that they can close for sale those that are affected,” he said.
“And for those passengers that have already booked, they can get their alternative travel options such as rebooking or get their new timing for their flight,” he added.
MIAA said "more than 50%" of the affected flights are domestic. "And there will be a number of international flights because we do have international flights that leave at midnight especially going to Korea or the Middle East,” Co said.
Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) meanwhile told CNN Philippines' The Source that it is set to take necessary steps to ensure that its passengers will arrive at their destinations on the day of the shutdown.
PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna said that the airline is expected to "operate 18 international arrivals and departures" that, when added to domestic flights, "would total to around 30 to 40 flights" on May 17.
“We will carry out steps to protect you either by rebooking you in the next available flight, giving you options or delaying the departures and delaying the arrivals,” Villaluna said. “We will make the announcements accordingly.”