The National Air Traffic Control agency for the United Kingdom suffered a complete failure of its flight planning system on Monday. Heathrow Airport reported delays averaging 10 hours, and scores of flights to and from the UK were cancelled as a result of the outage.
The air traffic control flight planning system is a computer-based system that helps pilots and air traffic controllers plan and manage flights. It provides information on airspace, weather, traffic, and other factors that affect flight safety and efficiency.
In the United Kingdom, the flight planning system is located at the National Air Traffic Control Centre in Swanwick, which is operated by NATS. Engineers were called in on a public holiday to get the system back up and running.
The agency implemented emergency contingency measures covering nearly all of the UK, resulting in long delays as air traffic controllers resorted to pen and paper.
After the fault was eventually identidad and fixed, a spokesperson for Heathrow Airport urged passengers only to travel to the airport of their flight was confirmed as still departing.
Delays and cancellations were anticipated for the rest of Monday and could stretch into the rest of the week.
Eurocontrol, which manages ATC movements across Europe, said in an update to airlines that long delays could be expected for some time.
NATS said it had “applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety”. In a statement, the agency said: “Engineers are working to find and fix the fault”.
A spokesperson for British Airways said it was working with NATS to understand what impact the IT outage would have on flights. In a statement, the airline told us:
“We are working closely with NATS to understand the impact of a technical issue that is affecting UK airspace, and will keep our customers up to date with the latest information.”
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.