UK flights resume following weekend ATM failure

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By admin December 10, 2013 13:01

UK flights resume following weekend ATM failure

Thousands of flights out of the UK were cancelled and delayed over the weekend due to severe technical issues with the UK air traffic management system managed by the National Air Traffic Services (Nats). Problems arose on Saturday morning with the ground communications system in the Area Control operations room at NATS Swanwick when the switchover was made from Nats’ night-time operating system, which combines sectors of airspace for when it is less busy, to the daytime system. Nats stressed at the time that safety was never at risk and highlighted that it was more than a problem with the phones that caused the need for delays and flight cancellations. “To be clear, this is a very complex and sophisticated system with more than a million lines of software. This is not simply internal telephones, it is the system that controllers use to speak to other ATC agencies both in the UK and Europe and is the biggest system of its kind in Europe,” said Nats in a statement, adding: “This has been a major challenge for our engineering team and for the manufacturer, who has worked closely with us to ensure this complex problem was resolved as quickly as possible while maintaining a safe service.”

The service was resolved later on Saturday but delays continued into Sunday as airlines caught up with their flight timetables.

On Saturday, a Nats statement read: “The technical and operational contingency measures we have had in place all day have enabled us to deliver more than 80% of our normal operation. The reduction in capacity has had a disproportionate effect on southern England because it is extremely complex and busy airspace and we sincerely regret inconvenience to our airline customers and their passengers.” This morning, another statement from Nats has welcomed calls for an inquiry into the contingency and resilience in UK airspace from airlines and members of parliament.

NATS Chief Executive, Richard Deakin, said: “A public debate has started over the level of contingency NATS had in place for Saturday’s issue. We delivered over 90% of an extremely busy schedule of flights during the day and recovered to normal operations in 14 hours. We had never seen this technical issue in over 10 years of operation at Swanwick, during which time over 20 million flights have been safely handled, with a service level among the best in the world.

“We believe this is an appropriate level of contingency that balances both a good level of service to our customers with an affordable level of cost for them to bear. As a regulated business, we also believe it is in line with our regulatory settlement.

“However, it was clear that the reduction in our service had a significant impact on our customers and the flying public. This is something we deeply regret and are determined to do all we can to avoid it happening again.

“Immediately after the incident, we launched our own major incident inquiry and our Board has also instigated, through our Technical Review Committee, an investigation led by the independent non-executive member of our Board and Chairman of the Airline Group, Peter Read. “Some of the comments over the weekend show that some parties believe our contingency was insufficient and instead we should be able to continue at 100% capacity in any eventuality.

“We are keen to do all we can at NATS to ensure the aviation industry has a full understanding of the capability that is in place in the UK and to take any further steps our customers and regulators decide are necessary to help avoid a repeat of last Saturday’s problems.”

admin
By admin December 10, 2013 13:01
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