NATS Air Traffic Control Failure Due to “Flight Data Issue”

NATS Air Traffic Controllers.
Photo Credit: NATS.

It has emerged that the preliminary issue that caused the NATS Air Traffic Control failure in the UK was due to a “flight data issue”.

In a statement released by the CEO Martin Rolfe earlier tonight, he said that initial investigations were into the way that such data was received.

Without further ado, let’s get into it…

Full Statement from NATS CEO Martin Rolfe on the Air Traffic Control Failure…


NATS Air Traffic Control Failure Due to "Flight Data Issue"
Photo Credit: NATS.

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The full statement reads:

“I would like to apologise again for our technical failure yesterday. While we resolved the problem quickly, I am very conscious that the knock-on effects at such a busy time of year are still being felt by many people travelling in and out of the UK.”

“I would like to reassure everyone that since yesterday afternoon all of our systems have been running normally to support airline and airport operations as they recover from this incident.”

“NATS exists to allow everyone flying in UK airspace to do so safely. Our systems enable our air traffic controllers to deliver this service all year round.”

“These have several levels of backup and allow us to manage around 2 million flights per year in some of the busiest and most complex airspace in the world safely and efficiently.”

“Very occasionally technical issues occur that are complex and take longer to resolve.  In the event of such an issue our systems are designed to isolate the problem and prioritise continued safe air traffic control.

“This is what happened yesterday. At no point was UK airspace closed but the number of flights was significantly reduced.”

“Initial investigations into the problem show it relates to some of the flight data we received.”

“Our systems, both primary and the back-ups, responded by suspending automatic processing to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system.”

“There are no indications that this was a cyber-attack.”

“We have well established procedures, overseen by the CAA, to investigate incidents. We are already working closely with them to provide a preliminary report to the Secretary of State for Transport on Monday.”

“The conclusions of this report will be made public.”

“I would like again to apologise to everyone who has been affected.”

What Next?


Photo Credit: NATS.

Passengers have been warned to expect knock-on disruption in the coming days, as well as there being an investigation started by the UK Civil Aviation Authority as well.

The IATA Director-General Willie Walsh has dubbed this failure a “fiasco”, via a lengthy statement that he released earlier today:

“I feel for all the passengers that have suffered and continue to suffer huge inconvenience from the delays and cancellations caused by another NATS meltdown.”

“I also sympathize with airline employees who face considerable additional stress dealing with the challenging recovery from this failure.”

“NATS has crucial questions to answer about their responsibility for this fiasco.”

“The failure of this essential service is unacceptable and brings into question the oversight of the CAA who are required to review the NATS resilience plan under the terms of its licence.”

This incident is yet another example of why the passenger rights system isn’t fit for purpose. Airlines will bear significant sums in care and assistance charges, on top of the costs of disruption to crew and aircraft schedules.”

“But it will cost NATS nothing. The UK’s policy makers should take note. The passenger rights system needs to be rebalanced to be fair for all with effective incentives.”

“Until that happens, I fear we will see a continuing failure to improve the reliability, cost efficiency, and environmental performance of air traffic control.”

“The current system does not protect passengers. It hurts them,” 

All eyes are now on the UK CAA to see what the full report on the NATS Air Traffic Control failure was caused by.

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By James Field - Editor in Chief 5 Min Read
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