December 12, 2014

Airspace over London and other parts of the UK closed for nearly 2 hours owing to computer glitch at NATS in Swanwick air traffic control centre

All flights in and out of London were cancelled for nearly two hours on Friday afternoon owing to what has been confirmed as a major computer glitch at the NATS Swanwick air traffic control centre. Transport secretary, Patrick McLoughlin, stated that: “Disruption on this scale is simply unacceptable and I have asked NATS for a full explanation of this evening’s incident.” Initially thoughts were that such a major crash could only be the result of a power outage, but despite robust safety measure in place, it was in fact a computer crash which caused the chaos. Not only did news get out that the whole of London’s airspace was closed to air traffic, but much of the UK’s airspace was affected from as far as Exeter in Devon up to Aberdeen in Scotland. It was at 1536hrs that the initial announcement was made, yet by 1625hrs NATS were reporting that the problem had been fixed. However an hour’s delay can create untold chaos for both departing and incoming flights. By 1655hrs NATS stated that flights from Stanstead had restarted. It would appear that up to 50 flights out of London were canceled, though one has to remember that many inbound international flights were delayed and so it is not just the UK that has been affected by this computer crash. By 1730hrs it had been announced that long-haul international flights would be given priority, followed by European flights, and then finally internal flights in an attempt to clear the backlog. At 1620hrs, NATS Managing Director of Operations Martin Rolfe defended his organisation’s handling of the chaos. “It was a technical failure at our Swanwick centre which handles 6,500 flights a day. We went through our backup systems and restored things relatively quickly but not without delays to passengers, which we hugely regret. “These things are relatively rare. We are a very busy island for air traffic control, so we’re always going to be operating near capacity. “What we’ve seen today is a very quick response. We didn’t close any airports, we didn’t close any airspace. We reduced the flow to make sure everything could be handled safely.”
At 1940hrs it has been estimated that the knock-on effect for flight delays may well stretch into the weekend



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