Computer hitch leaves British flights grounded

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Flights in and out of Britain had to be cancelled last night and many more were delayed for hours after a computer glitch at the main air traffic control centre in Hampshire. The problem occurred at 4pm yesterday, affecting airports across the country after National Air Traffic Services (Nats) was forced to impose restrictions on the number of planes entering UK airspace, and on those taking off.

Although technicians at the Nats control hub in Swanwick fixed the bug in three hours, the downtime caused many flights to be cancelled and left thousands of travellers facing severe delays. Ten of Britain's main airports were affected, including Heathrow, Gatwick, Manchester, Cardiff, Edinburgh and Glasgow. Last night, staff were struggling to deal with the backlog of flights which had been temporarily grounded while the problem was being fixed.

At Heathrow, 35 flights were cancelled, while in Cardiff many passengers were left facing two-hour delays. Luton airport cancelled seven European flights, and a dozen flights were also cancelled in Scotland. The computer problems, which affected the visibility of planes on the radar when they reached higher altitudes, meant that air traffic controllers were still able to see where each flight was, but struggled to identify them.

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