Aviation body announces inquiry into Friday’s air traffic disaster

The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) will look into the computer failure which caused chaos across UK airports last Friday

By Sarah.Aston

15 Dec 2014

An independent inquiry over a computer failure that led to mass flight cancellations and delays on Friday 12 December will be established, the CAA announced today.

Although CSW was told there is not a time frame in place yet, the CAA have confirmed the inquiry will look into what caused the computer glitch and how the National Air Traffic Services (NATS) – who are responsible for providing en-route air traffic control services to flights within the UK Flight Information Regions and the Shanwick Oceanic Control Area – handled the incident.

According to the CAA, the inquiry will also review the levels of resilience and service that should be expected and will assess “further measures to avoid technology or process failures”.

Speaking on the Today programme this morning, NATS chief executive Richard Deakin explained what caused the computer failure. 

“The hardware interacted with one line of code out of about four million lines of code and as a result of that the flight plan server went off line,” Deakin said.

Yesterday, business secretary Vince Cable criticised NATS for its “ancient” computer systems and blamed the computer glitch on a lack of funding.

Deakin, however, disputed this: “I don’t think that Friday was down to a lack of funding. This was one error, or limitation I should say, in four million lines of code. I don’t think additional funding would have solved that problem.”

When asked if Friday’s disaster would affect his annual pay packet, which is tied to the company’s performance, Deakin said:  “The pay arrangements in NATS and the performance related pay is obviously linked in to the service that we provide to customers. 

"The incident on Friday will obviously have an impact on that – I haven’t done the calculations on that yet.”

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