Flights chaos as air traffic computer fails

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The Independent Online

Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed yesterday after an air traffic control computer system failed.

Hundreds of flights were cancelled or delayed yesterday after an air traffic control computer system failed.

At 4.10pm, the computers that provide the air traffic controllers for London and the South-east with flight schedule information broke down, forcing the cancellation of all flights in the region for 20 minutes. Flights leaving the area and those inbound from Europe were still operating at half the normal rate while all routes and flight schedules had to be created manually.

Richard Wright, spokesman for Nats, the union of air traffic controllers, said the computers at West Drayton, near Heathrow, were up and running by 4.30pm but could not operate at full capacity until a complete database of all flights in and out of the country had been created and inputted by hand.

The computer crash meant the information normally produced by the computer – called a flight strip – that includes information such as destinations, radio call signs and routes, had to be produced manually.

Mr Wright said: "We had a failure of the flight data processing computer at West Drayton for 20 minutes between 4.10pm and 4.30pm.

"There are no safety implications as there was no loss of radio communication."

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