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National Airports See Delays After NATS Computer Failure

Flights delay plane - Shutterstock - © Oleg V. Ivanov
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Glitches cause problems at Heathrow, Gatwick and other major airports

Major airports across the UK, including Heathrow and Gatwick, are experiencing delays thanks to technical issues at the national air traffic control body NATS.

NATS said it was having problems at its Swanwick control centre. but could not offer any more details. It said there has been no suspension of flights in or out of the UK, but NATS has restricted the number of planes flying across the south of England.

“We regret any inconvenience this may cause however our first priority will always be the safety of the flying public,” it said.

plane in the sunset sky © magann - Fotolia“NATS is taking every step to restore services and has contingency plans in place to minimise any disruption.”

NATS glitch hits Heathrow and Gatwick

A spokesperson from Heathrow said the airport was experiencing some delays on southbound routes, whilst Gatwick told TechWeekEurope it was seeing delays on outbound routes.

“We haven’t got any delays for inbound but outbound there are some minor delays on transatlantic and european flights,” the Gatwick spokesperson said.

Jersey Airport tweeted the computer failure had “resulted in the temporary suspension of all flights in and out of UK air space”, but just 25 minutes later said flights were going but with some delays.

Southampton Airport was also warning customers of extensive delays.

The last serious NATS computer failure, in 2011, caused delays to flights going in and out of London. Traffic control staff at London airports were forced to input flight plans manually thanks to the issues.

Technology is at the heart of the travel industry in the UK, so any glitches can cause serious trouble. Many are now fretting about the security threats facing organisations such as NATS, given white hat hackers have claimed they could manipulate aircraft systems to send them on the wrong route.

UPDATE: NATS has claimed to have now fixed the problem.

“NATS has identified and corrected the technical problem that has been affecting air traffic control systems in the south of England,” its latest statement read.

“Operations are now returning to normal and we are working with the airports, airlines and Eurocontrol to clear the backlog of flights to ensure disruption is kept to a minimum.

“Outbound delays from the UK have generally been limited to 20 minutes.”

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