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There was a “one in 15 million chance” of a major outage at airports

There was a “one in 15 million chance” of a major outage at airports

Brendan Smyalowski/AFP British Airways jets are seen at Heathrow Airport in west London on June 13, 2021. (Photo by Brendan Smyalowski/AFP)

Brendan Smyalowski/AFP

An aerial view of Heathrow Airport in West London, England on June 13, 2021.

United Kingdom – It disrupted tens of thousands of travelers returning to the United Kingdom last week. This Wednesday, September 6th, we learned of a major air traffic control failure “One in 15 million chance” occur.

“We have processed 15 million flight plans through this system and we can be sure that we have never seen situations like this before”Martin Rolfe, director-general of NATS, the British air traffic control authority, explained on the BBC.

The outage forced airline agents to manually enter flight plans on Monday, August 28, leading to multiple delays and a chain of cancellations — nearly 2,000 flights canceled over two days.

A report made public by NATS this Wednesday indicated that the system crashed after it was unable to manage a flight plan submitted by an airline, which would be French – long-haul, planning heavy flights from the United Kingdom. Crossing points outside UK airspace with the same identifier.

This is “Extremely rare circumstances (…) lead to a “critical exception” whereby the main and backup systems enter fail-safe mode”According to a press release from NATS, without naming the company behind the flight plan.

The most significant outage in a decade

The result: tens of thousands or even hundreds of thousands of people may have seen their flights cancelled, and it took days to get back to normal and bring all the passengers home.

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British Transport Minister Mark Harper described the breakdown as the biggest in almost a decade.

The British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) announced an independent investigation into its role this Wednesday “The wider issues surrounding the computer failure and how NATS responded to the incident”According to a press release.

“If evidence emerges that NATS may have breached its legal and licensing obligations, the UK Civil Aviation Authority will take all appropriate action”She added.

NATS promised this Wednesday that changes have been made to the system to prevent the problem from recurring in the future.

Willie Walsh, director general of the International Air Transport Association (Iata), last week condemned the failure, putting the extra costs facing airlines at £100 million. “amazing” and disclosure “Significant Weaknesses” In air traffic control across the Channel.

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