September 26, 2008

Flights Disrupted After Air Traffic Control Centre Glitch

THE UK's main air traffic control centre suffered a computer glitch last night that saw scores of flights cancelled and delayed.

The problem started just before 4pmwhen a fault occurred at one of the systems at Swanwick Air Traffic Control Centre in Hampshire.

This led air traffic control company NATS to restrict the number of planes entering UK airspace as well as those taking off from major UK airports, including Cardiff International Airport, causing serious disruption. But a NATS spokesman said the problem was resolved and the centre was "full steam ahead" at 7pm.

While engineers worked to fix the fault, controllers operated with manual systems at a reduced capacity. Only sectors controlled from the London area control centre were affected.

Passengers at airports across the UK faced delays as inbound flights waited to land and departures were groundedat Cardiff and London's City airport.

In Cardiff passengers travelling to Belfast, Newcastle and Edinburgh had seen their flights cancelled and others were facing delays of up to 2 1/2 hours.

At Heathrow's Terminal 5, Richard Minnis, 26, an IT consultant from London, missed his 7.10pm flight to Cape Town after getting stuck in queues caused by the air traffic control glitch.

"It has been a bit of a shambles really," he said. "I missed my flight because the queue was so long to check in. Now I am stuck trying to find another one and the queues are huge."

About 7pm a public announcement was made at Terminal 5 to say all flights scheduled after 8pm would be leaving on time. Huge queues were still evident at check in desks at 7.45pm.

Passengers at Gatwick reported cancellations on flights run by budget airline easyJet.

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