Eurocontrol outlines causes of April 3 outage

The trigger event that caused thousands of flights delays proved to be an incorrect link between the testing of a new software release and the live operations system.

The Eurocontrol Network Manager said this had led to the deletion of all flight plans on the live system. “We are confident that there was no outside interference,” it said, adding that as a result of the nature of the outage, it was not yet in a position to provide figures on the numbers of flights that were affected. “We very much regret the impact that the events had on passengers and airlines,” it said.

It added that measures had been put in place to ensure no recurrence and that it would be carrying out a full investigation regarding the outage, the implementation of the contingency procedure and the recovery phase, in order to ensure that the organisation identified all necessary improvements and implemented them.

At 1.17 local time on April 3, the Brussels-based agency reported that there had been a failure of the Enhanced Tactical Flow Management System which is a key enabler of flow and capacity management services that regulate airline traffic by comparing demand and capacity of different air traffic control sectors.

“ETFMS facilitates improvements in flight management from the pre-planning stage to the arrival of the flight. It maximises the updating of flight-related data and thus improves the real picture of a given flight, thereby contributing to the Gate-to-Gate Concept,” Eurocontrol explains on its website.

The agency implemented contingency procedures which reduced the capacity of the European network by around 10 per cent. Airlines were requested to refile any flight plans for flights that had not operated before the outage and that were originally filed before 10.26UTC as they had been lost in the system.

The organisation reported that around half the 29,500 flights that were expected in the European network could have suffered some delay as a result of the system outage.

“In over 20 years of operation, the ETFMS has only had one other outage which occurred in 2001,” it said. The system currently manages up to 36,000 flights a day.

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