The technical error that led to hundreds of flight cancellations and serious disruption to thousands of people traveling in and out of the UK last week resulted from a “one in 15 million chance”, the country’s air traffic control service said on Wednesday with.
“We have handled 15 million flight plans with this system,” Martin Rolfe, chief executive of Britain’s National Air Traffic Service, told the BBC’s Today programme. And the service, he said, has “never seen that before.”
On Wednesday, the service released a report based on an internal investigation into the incident, detailing what Mr Rolfe described as “an incredibly rare set of circumstances”.
According to the report, the air traffic control system encountered two separate navigation data with the same name in an aircraft’s flight plan. As a result, both the system’s primary and backup computer systems are shut down to prevent incorrect information from being relayed to the controllers.
It then switched to manual air traffic control, which allowed fewer flights to be handled.
“The safety of the skies is the guiding principle of all our actions and that was our priority in last week’s incident,” Rolfe said in a statement.
The problem was fixed a few hours later, but 799 outbound and 786 inbound flights were canceled as of August 28, according to Cirium, an aeronautical analysis company. The disruption lasted until August 29, when more than 300 flights were cancelled.
Mr Rolfe again apologized to the passengers affected, many of whom were stranded for hours at airports or on the tarmac, or had to wait several days for alternative flights. He said the National Air Traffic Service would be able to take care of it should the problem recur.
“Measures have been taken to ensure that such an incident does not happen again,” said Mark Harper, Britain’s Minister of State for Transport. wrote on social media On Wednesday.
The Civil Aviation Authority, which oversees air safety in Britain, said on Wednesday it had begun an independent review of the issue and response to see if the National Air Traffic Service had breached its obligations. The agency said the results would be released by the end of the month.
Wednesday’s report came as a New York Times investigation found an alarming pattern of safety failures and near misses in United States skies and airport runways.
Source : www.nytimes.com