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Computer system failure delays hundreds of UK flights

Warwick Ashford

Hundreds of flights at several UK airports were delayed or cancelled at the weekend because of a computer failure at National Air Traffic Services (NATS).

The UK air traffic controller said the failure of the computer system enabling ground communications between air traffic controllers in the UK and Europe had been resolved by Saturday evening.

The new work station

However, the knock-on effects of the failure resulted in the cancellation of 18 flights at London’s Heathrow airport on Sunday after 228 flights were cancelled the day before, according to the Financial Times.

Gatwick, the UK’s second largest airport, said about 20% of its early morning flights had been delayed because of the air traffic control problem.

On Saturday, the computer failure at NATS in Swanwick also affected flights at Stansted, Birmingham, Southampton, Cardiff and Glasgow.

NATS said the reduction in capacity has had a disproportionate effect on southern England because it is an “extremely complex and busy airspace”.

NATS apologised for the computer failure, but said that contingency measures implemented on Saturday had enabled it to support 90% of normal Saturday flights.

“This has been a major challenge for our engineering team and for the manufacturer, who has worked closely with us to ensure this complex problem was resolved as quickly as possible while maintaining a safe service,” NATS said in a statement.

NATS has not released any more details, but a spokeswoman told Computer Weekly that more technical detail would be provided as and when it was available.


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