An embarrassing fault paralyzes air traffic

An embarrassing fault paralyzes air traffic

Getting up early was after a brutal awakening. Thousands of passengers in Zurich and Geneva must have experienced this on Wednesday morning. Upon arriving at these two Swiss airports, they discovered that their flights to anywhere in the world had been canceled or postponed. The reason: Skyguide air traffic control closed all Swiss airspace to traffic due to a technical glitch in its own systems. Skyguide released the lock at 8:30. The technicians were able to fix the fault before.

An embarrassing fault paralyzes air traffic

As a result, the situation at Swiss airports has slowly improved. In Zurich, 38 inbound and 39 outbound flights had to be canceled in the morning, a spokeswoman said. 15 aircraft that were already on their way to Switzerland were redirected to other airports, incl. Basel-Mühlhausen, Frankfurt, Lyon, Milan and Vienna. According to the spokeswoman, from 10 am it was 100% again. transhipment capacity.

However, the airlines themselves took a little longer to get back to their scheduled flight mode. The top dog Swiss, a subsidiary of Lufthansa, expected “normalization of flight operations” during the day. However, there may still be delays. Passengers should check for updates on the airline’s website, Swiss said.

Huge damage to reputation

Skyguide, which is almost 100 percent Swiss-owned, was remorseful. “We very much regret this incident,” Skyguide spokesman Vladi Barrosa said in an interview with FAZ.

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According to Barrosa, neither human error nor a cyberattack was responsible for the flaw. “A hardware component in our Geneva network was damaged and had to be replaced. It affected several systems. ” Therefore, for safety reasons, it was decided to close the airspace. After replacing the defective component, the systems could be restarted.

Such a failure is very unusual – and, according to experts, should not happen. For Skyguide, which also controls parts of the southern airspace of Germany and Austria, this is a huge damage to reputation. Switzerland, a symbol of quality and reliability, has never had such an incident. When the airspace had to be closed for 20 minutes in 2013, the reasons were more trivial: the air traffic control center had to be evacuated for a short time due to a false fire alarm.

According to Skyguide, it is not liable for any damage caused to passengers as a result of the accident: “The airlines run the risk of airspace closure. The weather can also be to blame, ”said Barrosa. The passengers concerned would have to contact the relevant airline.

Nevertheless, Skyguide doesn’t just want to sit back and relax. “We will analyze exactly why the hardware failure has occurred,” said Barrosa. In addition, work is underway to create a virtual IT center that will connect the two separate air traffic control centers in Geneva and Zurich. If one of the two centers fails, as is the case in Geneva, Skyguide could monitor air traffic from a different control room. Thanks to this “reserve” it would then no longer be necessary to close the airspace. However, according to current plans, this CHF 250 million project will not be completed until 2028.

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With 1,500 employees at 14 locations, skyguide is responsible for both civilian and military air traffic control in Switzerland and neighboring countries. It monitors airspace and taxiing, take-off and landing maneuvers at airports. The company is celebrating the centenary of air traffic control in Switzerland this year. From this Wednesday, all party moods at the Geneva headquarters are likely to disappear.

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