UK Flights disrupted by “technical issue” across air traffic control network

30/08/2023

A “TECHNICAL issue” across important IT networks has grounded hundreds of flights, according to the UK’s National Air Traffic Service (NATS).

The disruption in NATS’s systems was first communicated at 12:10 on bank holiday Monday, causing major delays and flights to be grounded until the systems were recovered at 15:15.

However, a statement from Operations Director Juliet Kennedy confirmed that “it will take some time for flights to return to normal.”

Multiple UK airports and airlines were impacted by the issue, including Heathrow where thousands of passengers were left waiting for hours in the terminals while Scottish airline Loganair said there was a “network-wide failure of UK air traffic control computer systems.”

Oseloka Obiora, Chief Technology Officer at RiverSafe, commented:Downtime in industries such as aviation causes incredible disruption, as we’ve seen by flights being grounded and major delays, so it is vital that organisations have observability to monitor their entire network environment. Having visibility over the condition of networks, infrastructure and applications based on data outputs can ensure that IT teams are able to better identify and resolve issues faster.” 

“Through observability, IT teams can monitor the unknowns unknowns, enabling them to be better prepared for unexpected issues that arise within a network, particularly those that are complex or across distributed systems. Effective network visibility through observability can be the difference between hours and days’ worth of delays in the aviation industry.”

Government ministers included a cyber attack as the possibility of the network failure, following a breach by pro-Russian cyber attacks in April on Eurocontrol, the organiser of commercial traffic in the European Union.

Juliet Kennedy, Operations Director for NATS, said: “The issue we had earlier meant that our automatic system which provides controllers with details of every aircraft and its route wasn’t working. Instead, to manage safety, we had to limit the number of flights we could manage.”

“Our absolute priority is safety, and we’ll be investigating very thoroughly what happened” she added.

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