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Air-traffic disrupted by new flight control equipment in Switzerland

Thousands of airline passengers were affected by flight cancellations and hours of delay at Zurich airport on Wednesday due to a major glitch with new air-traffic control equipment.

Thousands of airline passengers were affected by flight cancellations and hours of delay at Zurich airport on Wednesday due to a major glitch with new air-traffic control equipment.

The computer problems came at the worst possible time as the summer holiday season was getting under way and passenger numbers were clearly on the increase.

“Today the average delay is two hours. It is another bad day,” said a spokesman for Zurich’s Kloten airport, which is used by some 50,000 passengers daily. “Of course there is a chain-reaction effect to other airports,” he added.

The Swiss air-traffic chaos started on Tuesday morning after the national air control service, Swisscontrol, moved to new buildings and a new system.

“We moved to a new building in the night from Monday to Tuesday and we used our move to change to a new air control system at the same time,” Kurt Duss, head of Swisscontrol in Zurich, told Reuters.

This system has worked well in the past few years in Geneva. We began using it at three in the morning (0100 GMT) and at first all went well but as capacity increased problems appeared,” he said.

“Basically, the screens went blank and air controllers could not see what was on the radar and where the planes were,” Duss said, adding Swisscontrol was now handling only 60 to 70 percent of normal traffic levels.

He said engineers were working flat out but could not say when the problem could be solved. Swisscontrol not only guides airplanes through Swiss airspace but also through parts of France and Germany.


Sources: AP, Reuters

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