Computer Glitch Grounds Flights Across London

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined as a reporter in 2011 and covers all areas of IT, with a particular interest in telecommunications, mobile and networking, along with sports technology.

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Yet another technical fault results in airspace above the capital being restricted

A technical error at Swanwick air traffic control centre has resulted in the partial closure of airspace in and around London – almost exactly a year since a software failure at the same facility caused air travel chaos across the UK.

The National Air Traffic Service (NATS) has confirmed it is working to fix this latest computer glitch which is set to cause misery for passengers hoping to get away for the weekend from Gatwick, Heathrow and Stansted.Gatwick Airport

Air traffic controllers told the BBC that London airspace is set to be closed until 19:00, but at the time of writing, the organisation  had posted a Tweet confirming that airspace had been re-opened but with capacity restrictions.

It is understood that only airborne traffic is being accept at this time, so take-offs are still not permitted.

Airport IT failure

“NATS can confirm that a technical problem has been reported at Swanwick air traffic control centre,” it said in a statement. “We apologise for any delays and our incident response team has been mobilised.

“Every possible action is being taken to assist in resolving the situation and to confirm the details. Further information will be released as it becomes available.”

TechWeekEurope has enquired as to what type of technical error has caused the disruption but NATS has not made any details available.

Last December, it was an issue with NATS internal communications system, which has night and day time configurations, that was the problem. During the night, when traffic is quieter, NATS combines sectors of airspace, while during the day, these sectors are split again.

However the glitch meant it was not possible for the voice communications system to reconfigure these sectors and open up additional control positions, resulting in a significant reduction in UK airspace.

Another error in July 2013 at Swanwick resulted in a restriction of the number of planes flying across southern England, while in 2011 a NATS computer failure meant traffic control staff at London airports were forced to input flight plans manually.

UPDATE: Aberdeen Airport has tweeted: “We are told that the issue has now been RESOLVED. Could be knock-on delays as normality is restored but system returning to normal.”

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