Scots airports affected by London computer failure

Passengers scan for flight information amid cancellations due to computer glitch. Picture: Gordon Fraser
Passengers scan for flight information amid cancellations due to computer glitch. Picture: Gordon Fraser
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THE shutdown of London’s airspace following an unprecedented systems failure continued to have a knock-on effect at Scotland’s airports yesterday.

However, flights to and from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Aberdeen and Inverness were said to have almost returned to normal after playing “catch-up” on services.

Major airports throughout the UK were affected by a computer failure on Friday afternoon at Swanwick air traffic control centre, operated by NATS.

The fault resulted in London airspace being closed, forcing planes to circle or be diverted elsewhere.

Yesterday, in a statement NATS said the problem had “not been seen before” and had arisen when standby workstat­ions were brought into use.

It said: “The failure meant controllers were unable to access all of the data regarding individual flight plans.

“Consequently, when the failure occurred we immediately took steps to reduce the traffic into and out of the UK network.

“The controllers had a full radar picture and full communications with all aircraft at all times and at no time was safety compromised in any way.”


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Although the failure only lasted for about an hour, it caused chaos because the UK’s air traffic control system runs at 99 per cent capacity.

NATS declared its systems were back to full operational capacity by Friday evening.

All of Scotland’s airports suffered flight delays and Heathrow said 38 flights had been cancelled before 9.30am yesterday.

In a statement, the airport warned there would be some cancellations because aircraft and crew were out of position. It added: “We are very sorry for the disruption to passengers’ journeys.”

However, a British Airways spokeswoman said: “We don’t expect to see any further significant disruption to our flights.”

Passengers continued to be advised to check with their airline before travelling to an airport.

UK transport secretary Patrick McLoughlin said the situation was “unacceptable” and has asked for a full explanation from NATS about what had gone wrong and what it would do to prevent it happening again.

Labour has called for ministers to “get a grip”. MP Louise Ellman, chair of the transport committee, said McLoughlin will be asked about the incident when he appears before the panel tomorrow.

She said: “It is vital we establish what happened on Friday, and what NATS must do in order to ensure the same problem does not recur in ­future.”


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