UK air traffic failure: What are the consequences?Aug 29, 2023
We are seeing reports of flight delays after
whatis reported to be a major network-wide
failureof the UK's air
trafficcontrol computer system this morning. We received a statement from Loganair, the Scottish airline, and this is
whatit says, it says that there has been a network-wide
failureof the UK's air
trafficcontrol computer systems this morning, although we are hopeful that we will be able to operate. most flights of interest from Scotland. I'm going to leave that because we've heard from the Nationals and they control the air. Traffic Control Nats say we are currently experiencing a technical issue and have implemented traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety.
Engineers are working to find and fix the fault. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, as it comes from the mosquitoes they control. Air traffic control systems across the country again say we are currently experiencing a technical issue and have implemented traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety. Engineers are working to find and fix the fault and we apologize for any inconvenience this may cause. National Air Traffic Services, let's talk to Simon Calder, he's a travel journalist. Simon, let's start with what exactly is happening and then we can explain what Nats is and why they say this.
Okay, it's the National Air Traffic Service where they're based in Swanig. Hampshire, they are absolutely crucial of course to air traffic control, they control the entire UK airspace system and from the messages I get from airline people, we have effectively seen the whole system shut down, not now there is danger because the entire aviation system. is designed to deal with a system like this, a situation like this, but what you will find is that immediately there will be absolute chaos that will spread throughout Europe because if you are on the ground at Heathrow or Gatwick, which are respectively the places busiest Track and the busiest track, sorry, Enthusiast, two tracks and the busiest track in the world.
There is very, very little slack in the system, so if they give you a slot in a few hours in the meantime, it will be very, very miserable. of course, thousands of planes in the skies over Europe, hundreds of them heading to the UK and what is going to happen to those planes, well some of them are getting off, if they were in the vicinity of the airfield then they would land. but otherwise we will start to see planes grounded at airports like Amsterdam or even diverted if they are on a longer flight and that would normally be to a continental airport, it could be to an Irish airport but of course we are in one One of the busiest days of the whole year, there are hundreds of thousands of people flying into the UK and plenty of families arriving from the Mediterranean and beyond and, frankly, this is the last thing anyone needs.
At least even if they fix the fault, then that is the headquarters at Swan Lake in Hampshire in the next few minutes will have caused enough disruption that the system will be in disarray, but certainly the rest of the day, possibly for more days than again It was a very, very busy week so the last thing anyone needed was reassurance about safety, but if you're booked to fly into or enter the UK, be prepared for some serious disruption. Simon, how does it work? Because we have received that statement. From that, they are experiencing a technical issue, they have applied traffic flow restrictions to maintain safety, but I am looking at the flight radar, the app that monitors flights and there is a flight arriving from LAX to Heathrow right now , behind him there is one. from Jersey so it looks like they are landing, so how does this work now?
Are they going to stop people from taking off before they reach our airspace? Yes, you normally have flights that land normally every year, about 90 seconds. Arriving at Heathrow and what they can do is move away from the digital system and become much more analogue and you can bring the plane in safely, however, you won't be able to do that. at the same rate at which you could normally bring those planes in and for busy Heathrow there are two runway airports in the world or Gatwick in particular, they're okay, there's so little slack in the system that even a little bit of bad weather, um, can can cause massive problems and if you're reducing inflow if you keep planes on the ground at those airports, well, I'm afraid it's going to be a very, very difficult Monday afternoon, exactly at the time when people just want everything runs smoothly, so I still see that flight from Jersey about to land, another from Vienna and then a 380 from Dubai, but all those planes will have enough fuel to divert somewhere else, right? that diversion would be somewhere within the country or it would have to be outside UK airspace and all planes have contingency fuel so there is no chance of there being planes in the sky running out of fuel.
You are crazy because it just won't happen, they will declare a diversion possibly for airports within the UK, but if the airspace extends across the entire UK then I think you will see a lot of planes landing. in places like Amsterdam in Paris for example, but also, many planes that need to take off to travel to the UK will simply not go anywhere, they will be grounded, which will then lead to delays and of course, here we are, nice. from lunchtime on a Bank Holiday Monday, you really should get the plane off the ground safely again and that's not going to happen I'm afraid, so I'm like you're trying to assess what the impact is. in the system it will be, but I'm afraid experience tells us that something like this is not going to end quickly and it's going to be very complicated, but I absolutely emphasize that people will be safe, Simon, if you had slot delays, what would happen ?
There would be a delay in space which would cause a real problem. We're talking about an hour. We're talking about five hours. Ten hours. What would be a problem here? Foreign flights are delayed until maybe, you know, two, three, four hours, but, of course, we have to coordinate with what's happening across Europe and air traffic control anywhere in Europe is really on point. limit right now and once the system starts to go out of sync, I'm afraid it takes a hell of a lot to get it all. Back to where I should be, I haven't seen any cancellations yet, but unfortunately, once there are big delays, cancellations really aren't going to be far away because the airlines are just going to realize that their pilot, their planes, your passengers are out of position, they don't have the scope to finish the program for the day you are flying and I'm afraid that's when they cancel flights and that will cause serious disruption for the rest of the afternoon. late into the night and I dare say there will be thousands of people who will wake up tomorrow morning in a place they don't want to be, so what happens?
What is your advice to someone? Let's say you are at the airport or heading to the airport. What should people do now? If you continue or call. I'm not sure you did. Yes, you have to assume that your flight will go normally. That's all you can do. The airlines are absolutely responsible for your well-being, so if your flight is very late more than two three four hours, depending on the duration of the flight, then you will be entitled to a meal, if it is delayed overnight, the airline has to find you a hotel, now it's easier to say. what are the rules so that they are properly applied and I dare say that there will be many people sleeping on the floor of airports tonight.
I hope I'm wrong about that, but then they have to get you to your destination as soon as they can, even if that's on someone else's flight and it looks like it could cost the airlines millions of pounds in cash and of course not It's his responsibility, at this point it seems like something that has happened to him. Nats and in a new course we will find out what exactly it is, but in the meantime OMG my thoughts are with anyone trying to travel today, all you can do is hope for the best but be prepared for disruptions.
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