Computer failure causes UK air disruption

3 Jun 2004

UPDATE: A computer malfunction has been blamed for massive disruption of flights across the UK. The fault is understood to have been caused by a “data flow” problem.

It is understood that the air traffic control system located at West Drayton is fully operational again. However, most flights from and into UK airports remain on hold.

It emerged that the UK’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) Flight Data Processing System failed at around 6am for an hour, after overnight testing of an upgrade. The system which handles the separation of aircraft in the air continued working during the system failure. It is understood that the NATS is planning on spending over £1bn sterling on upgrading its system over the next eight years.

Air safety was unaffected by the malfunction while air traffic controllers have grounded most flights in order to prioritise which ones can take off.

Passengers travelling to and from the UK have been told to check in as normal but to expect delays.

It is understood that the affected computer system was not the one that separates planes in the air but the host control system, which handles the basic details of planes coming into the UK. It is a two year-old system based at West Drayton.

Air traffic controllers say they are adamant that the fault will not occur again.

By John Kennedy