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Bigger countries also get hit by ‘technical glitch’


Technical glitches that affect flights to, from and within a country also get to hit first-world countries with high-tech aviation equipment and airports.

Reports have it that on January 2 or a day after the said fiasco that took place in Philippine airports, a ‘national ground stop’ was issued by the Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) on all aircrafts going to or from any airport in Florida, owing to an ‘equipment issue.’ Their air traffic control centers use a computer system called, “En Route Automation Modernization” to manage airspace and all planes using it. The FAA said the problem stemmed from ERAM issue and affected flights to six major airports in the southern half of Florida. Flights were suspended pending the resolution of the said problem.

The same thing happened in Switzerland in June 2022, when its air navigation system suffered a ‘tech glitch’ or “major computer failure,” also resulting in the suspension on the use of Swiss airspace. Its air navigation service provider Skyguide said there had been an “unknown tech malfunction” that necessitated the grounding of outbound flights and the rerouting of arrivals in Geneva airport in Switzerland and even the cancellation of flights.

Even if the issue had been resolved and the Swiss airspace had been reopened to air traffic while operations at their national airports in Geneva and Zurich have resumed, the operations did not go 100 percent at once. It began with 50 percent capacity and inched toward 75 percent prior to full operations.

While the airspace was closed to air traffic, international flights going to Switzerland had to be rerouted to German cities like Frankfurt and Munich and even to Milan and all these also created problems for affected air passengers. Skyguide later said the problem was caused by a ‘hardware glitch’ and ruled out ‘hacking’.

In the Florida air traffic computer issue, Miami International Airport (MIA) officials said there had been a ‘nationwide ground stop to and from Florida due to a radar link outage’. Nearly 270 flight delays and 19 flight cancellations were reported at the MIA on Monday while the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport recorded 290 delays and 33 flight cancellations.

Before that, in February also last year, the airport ground services operator Swissport was also hit by a ransomware attack that affected Zurich Airport services. Swissport is in charge of the bulk of airport operations that include baggage handling, aircraft fueling and security and check-in gates and the problem also caused flight delays.

A technical glitch also led to several Qantas flight delays across Australia and New Zealand in August 2022 where both international and domestic flights from Melbourne and Sydney airport were affected by the technical issue.

In March 2022, British Airways also faced delays as an IT glitch caused serious problems with the airline’s check-in systems around the world. Reportedly, the system has been hit at that time by five serious malfunctions in just three months, causing huge delays to thousands of passengers around the globe.

Reports said that the computer glitch that occurred on January 1 was not a ‘one- of- a -kind’ incident that the Philippines experienced just because we are a third world country with less sophisticated equipment and inefficient key people.

It will be recalled that the same problem hit Philippine aviaton on New Year’s Day, causing flights to get cancelled and delayed.

Concerned officials were ‘all hands on deck’ to attend to it, led by Department of Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista, NAIA general manager Cesar Chiong and Captain Manuel Antonio Tamayo, Director General of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, who all personally saw to it that the functions of their respective offices were fully discharged.

Itchie G. Cabayan
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