London’s Gatwick Airport Suffers Catastrophic Air-Systems Control Failure

A major air-traffic-control systems failure caused a complete ground stop at London’s Gatwick airport on Wednesday evening.  At around 5 p.m. London time, the airport suspended all flights in or out of Gatwick as it struggled to identify the cause and remedy the problem. By 7 p.m. flights had resumed, but resulting delays were expected to disrupt normal operations for several hours.

Multiple inbound flights were already in the air when the interruption occurred. Flightradar24, a fight-tracking software showed that inbound planes had to be diverted to other airports in nearby cities, including Birmingham and Brighton. Later arrivals were expectedly delayed, as were nearly all departing flights. 

In a 7 p.m. statement , Gatwick officials said:

Due to an air traffic control systems issue in Gatwick’s control tower, flights were suspended between 17.08 and 19.00. Flights have resumed, but passengers are advised to check the status of their flight with their airline before travelling to the airport as we return to full operations.

A December incident with a drone attack that shut down the airport may be linked. The drone occurrence took place just before Christmas and was believed to have been implemented by someone with knowledge of the airport’s operational procedures.

It was later postulated that the drone could see see what was happening on runways, was eavesdropping on radio communications’

Gatwick ranks as the UK’s second-busiest airport, and is eighth-busiest in all of Europe. The disruption affected some 140,000 passengers and grounded or delayed 1,000 flights over the course of 33 hours.

The cause of Wednesday’s breach has not been revealed.

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