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UK air traffic control had to cancel hundreds of thousands of passengers flights on Monday after technical failure caused the national air traffic control services (Nats) across Britain to shut down for several hours.

Although airspace wasn’t closed, only a handful of planes were allowed in the sky while the automated system was down.

According to Nats, the failure was trigged by a single piece of data in a flight plan that was wrongly input to its system. The airline responsible for the incorrect data hasn’t been named.

The incorrect data caused the several layers of backup that exist within Nats to be suspended in an attempt “to ensure that no incorrect safety-related information could be presented to an air traffic controller or impact the rest of the air traffic system”, said Martin Rolfe, chief executive at Nats.

A plane’s flight plan is supplied to air traffic controllers before takeoff and it’s the pilot’s responsibility to ensure the route is checked and updated if necessary.

Rolfe confirmed that there was no indication of a cyber-attack even though the event took place on a bank holiday in the UK.

Mark Harper, the transport secretary, ruled out the possibility of a cyber attack as well.

Image credit: Sky News

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