Inquiry initiated into mass flight disruptions in UK

14 December 2014 (Last Updated December 14th, 2014 18:30)

A technical fault in the flight data system at National Air Traffic Services' (NATS) Swanwick centre that led to a widespread flight disruption at UK airports on Friday, will now be investigated in an independent inquiry by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and NATS.

A technical fault in the flight data system at National Air Traffic Services' (NATS) Swanwick centre that led to a widespread flight disruption at UK airports on Friday, will now be investigated in an independent inquiry by the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and NATS.

In consultation with NATS, the CAA will appoint an independent chair of the panel, which will consist of NATS technical experts, a board member from the CAA and independent experts on information technology, air traffic management and operational resilience.

"The challenge is that we have around 50 different systems at Swanwick and around four million lines of code."

The panel will look into the root causes that led to the technical failure, NATS' handling of the incident to minimise disruption without compromising safety and whether the lessons identified in the review of the disruption in December 2013 have been fully embedded and were effective in this most recent incident.

A review of the levels of resilience and service might also be conducted across the air traffic network which would take into account relevant international benchmarks. The inquiry would also come up with further measures to avoid technology or process failures to reduce the impact of any unavoidable disruption.

NATS CEO Richard Deakin had informed on Saturday that a computer glitch had led to the disruption across UK airports but it had been rectified.

The failure caused problems at airports around the country, including Gatwickand Heathrow, where almost 40 flights were cancelled.

BBC quoted Deakin as saying: "The challenge is that we have around 50 different systems at Swanwick and around four million lines of code. This particular glitch was buried in one of those four million lines of code. We haven't seen that particular issue before."