Socialist Worker

Market caused plane chaos in Britain

by Mike Bradgate
Issue No. 2434

A computer glitch caused chaos over Britain’s skies as flights were grounded. 

The problems occurred at the National En Route Centre (Nerc) in Sanwick, Hampshire. 

This problem is unlikely to happen again, but others are. 

Labour privatised the National Air Traffic Services (Nats) in 2001.

The Nerc computer system was built on “ancestral” software from a failed project by IBM and Loral. 

The Sanwick centre opened six years later in 2002, £568 million over budget. 

And testers were also dismayed at the IBM “legacy” hardware, with its Ceefax-like display screens.

IBM wouldn’t make upgrades, because it was trying to challenge Microsoft’s spread sheet software dominance.

This shows that complex, life-critical systems cannot be trusted to the market.

Mike is a former Nats air traffic worker

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Article information

Tue 16 Dec 2014, 16:52 GMT
Issue No. 2434
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