UK Flight Chaos To Face Independent Inquiry


Investigation into Friday’s air traffic disruption will be headed by an independent chair and will take evidence from both IT and air traffic management experts

Friday’s air transport disruption is to face a forensic examination, with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) saying it has agreed with the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) to establish an independent inquiry into the flight chaos, said to have been the result of a software issue.

The inquiry will be headed by an independent chair leading a panel including a board member from the CAA and independent experts on information technology, air traffic management and operational resilience, the CAA said. Among the issues to be addressed will be whether lessons from last December’s disruption “have been fully embedded”.

Heathrow Terminal 2 (3)‘Further measures’ necessary

The CAA demanded Nats take “further measures to avoid technology or process failures”.

Nats said the incident was down to a software bug at its operations centre at Swanwick in Hampshire. On Friday the bug caused delays at Heathrow and Gatwick, with flights grounded for a time and knock-on effects reported at airports around the UK.

About 40 flights were also cancelled on Saturday morning before the resumption of normal service.

A telephone failure at the same Swanwick centre in December of last year resulted in the cancellation of about 300 flights. The incidents are amongst several technical bugs to have affected Nats, which is partly privatised, since the Hampshire centre opened in 2002.

Nats is scheduled to present a preliminary report on the incident to Transport Secretary Patrick McLoughlin on Monday morning, with McLoughlin to face questioning by the Transport Select Committee later in the day.

Code glitch

Nats and the CAA are also to give evidence before the committee, according to its chairwoman, Louise Ellman.

Business Secretary Vince Cable on Sunday accused Nats of “skimping on large-scale investment”, but Nats chief executive Richard Deakin said funding was not an issue.

Rather, the problem was caused by “one error, or limitation, in four million lines of code”, Deakin told BBC 4’s Today programme.

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