UK air traffic control went down over a trivial bit of bad data


Staff Member
4 Jun 2021
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Reading the reason for failure, below, I think it's a pathetic reason for the whole system to collapse, especially as the markers (waypoints in aviation terms) were in separate locations. It's the kind of edge case trapping that modern software, especially large, critical software like this should deal with properly and not just shut down, running way screaming. It's programming 101. All the software had to do was reject the second flight plan with the (sorta) clashing waypoint and report the problem so it could be dealt with by a human. The fact that the CAA have now confirmed that a fix is in place to prevent this from recurring proves my point. Would be nice to know what that fix is, but I doubt they'll let on.

In its initial report published on Wednesday, Nats said that at 08:32 on 28 August, its system received details of a flight which was due to cross UK airspace later that day.
Airlines submit every flight path to the national control centre; these should automatically be shared with Nats controllers, who oversee UK airspace.
The system detected that two markers along the planned route had the same name - even though they were in different places. As a result, it could not understand the UK portion of the flight plan.
This triggered the system to automatically stop working for safety reasons, so that no incorrect information was passed to Nats' air traffic controllers. The backup system then did the same thing.
This unfolded in just 20 seconds.

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