UK air traffic bods deny they 'skimped' on IT investment after server mega-fail

'90s kit isn't 'ancient', indignant chief exec tells Parliament

The chief executive of the National Air Traffic Services, Richard Deakin, has denied the body “skimped" on its IT investment after being hauled in front MPs this week to account for its major computer outage.

The cock-up last Friday resulted in 120 flights being cancelled and 500 flights being delayed for 45 minutes, affecting a total of 10,000 passenger.

Appearing in front of the Transport Committee to answer questions on the computer failure, Deakin said: “Investment has been a significant part of our journey since privatisation."

In 2013, the body spent £130m on IT, with a further £575m investment planned over the next five years, he said.

However, business secretary Vince Cable last week accused NATS of skimping on IT investment and leaving itself vulnerable due to its “ancient” technology.

Deakin said that due to safety concerns, it was necessary not to rush upgrades. "Just because the technology is old, does not necessarily mean it is not fit for purpose or doesn’t do the job,” he said. The current system "has its roots in the '90s."

He said it would be “unrealistic” to expect failures never to occur given the complexity of the systems. “I can't honestly sit here and say we will never have a computer glitch again," he said.

He did add, however, that the specific problems that caused Friday's outage will not happen again.

The UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) and NATS have opened a joint independent enquiry into the IT cock-up, which sources whispered to El Reg happened when an IBM S/390 mainframe running the flight data processing system fell over.

Last year 300 flights were cancelled and 1,472 delayed due to a technical fault.

According to NATS, 99.7 per cent of aircraft were not delayed. Of the remaining 0.3 per cent, the average delay was 26 minutes.

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