Ctrl-Alt-Del – UK airspace saved from chaos as computer is rebooted

The airport of Jersey in the Channel Islands posted the following status update on its Facebook page this morning:

Jersey Airport Facebook update

“Computer failure at National Air Traffic Control Centre at Swanwick has resulted in the temporary suspension of all flights in and out of UK air space. Inter-island servcies not affected and neither are any air services flying through French airspace. Will keep you upadted soon as we know more.”

A Twitter message from Jersey Airport’s colleagues at Southampton Airport, told a similar story:

Sign up to our free newsletter.
Security news, advice, and tips.

Tweet from Southampton airport

It certainly sounds pretty serious, but according to the BBC the story wasn’t quite as catastrophic as it may have first appeared.

You can almost feel the chill in the prickly situation update published from NATS, the National Air Traffic Services air traffic control centre at Swanwick, as it debunks Jersey’s claim that UK airspace has been closed:

NATS is experiencing technical problems at our Swanwick control centre and we are working to restore full operations.

This has not resulted in the closure of UK airspace or the suspension of all flights in or out the UK.

However, to maintain safety NATS is restricting the number of aircraft flying across the south of England and those taking off from airports. We regret any inconvenience this may cause however our first priority will always be the safety of the flying public.

So, although air traffic systems were impacted by the problem it wasn’t as serious as some had made out – and social media played its part in spreading incorrect information. NATS later confirmed that things were returning to normal, and the backlog of flights was being cleared to minimise disruption.

Southampton Control Tower

So what *had* gone wrong?

Well, according to the BBC, a “rogue flight plan” had somehow made its way into the network at the NATS (National Air Traffic Services) air traffic control centre at Swanwick, near Southampton, and a reboot of the computer system resolved the issue.

As every IT support desk worker knows, sometimes the best thing to try is turning it off and on again.

Graham Cluley is an award-winning keynote speaker who has given presentations around the world about cybersecurity, hackers, and online privacy. A veteran of the computer security industry since the early 1990s, he wrote the first ever version of Dr Solomon's Anti-Virus Toolkit for Windows, makes regular media appearances, and is the co-host of the popular "Smashing Security" podcast. Follow him on Twitter, Mastodon, Threads, Bluesky, or drop him an email.

3 comments on “Ctrl-Alt-Del – UK airspace saved from chaos as computer is rebooted”

  1. Akhen3sir

    "somehow made its way into the network"

    [fx: Paxman] Yeeeeeesss [/fx] Can't help feeling that's probably worth investigating a bit further.

  2. “rogue flight plan” AKA a malformed flight plan!, sound like NATS have never heard of sanitisation and validation.

  3. Luiz Felipe

    Noo, don't turn it off, call the developers to live debug and find the problem. I hate when they restart my program before I cant take memory dump or attach debugger.

What do you think? Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.