After Delta suffered a major computer systems crash last week that caused the cancellation of more than 2100 flights over three days, people are asking how that could happen to one of America’s biggest and healthiest airlines.
Just how stable are airline computer systems? The question comes as, on another front, a looming shortage of aviation professionals throughout the airline industry has analysts wondering how airlines are going to maintain their fleets.
That comes as airlines confront the separate, but related, issue of computer problems and sudden outages.
A report in the US by NewJersey.com says vulnerabilities in the computer systems of America’s biggest airlines, disclosed by serious service disruptions over the past year, indicate an industry-wide problem.
Last month, Southwest Airlines cancelled 2300 flights over several days because of a computer crash. More than 8000 flights were delayed at a cost to Southwest of about USD 54 million. Delta and Southwest are two of the biggest and best funded US carriers.
Another giant US carrier, United Airlines, suffered a computer systems glitch last year that delayed over 1150 flights, triggering dozens of cancellations. American Airlines cancelled flights out of Chicago, Dallas and Miami after a similar glitch.
Paul Hudson, president of FlyersRights, says the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Department of Transportation should issue “emergency regulations and orders … to protect the national air transportation system from disruption and chaos.”
On the maintenance side, meanwhile, Flight Safety Australia says aviation is facing a less publicised challenge, but one that is crucial.
“Its signs are subtle and slow and hidden to most. The crisis is the distinct possibility that in ten years there might be too few people left who can maintain aircraft to a safe standard. The problem is local, national and global,” the publication says.
The statistics are staggering: the world’s airlines, charter operators and other aviation businesses will require 350,000 more pilots by 2026. They will have to train or find about 480,000 more engineers to deal with the extra 25,000 air transport aircraft expected in service by then.
For the full Flight Safety Australia article, see; http://www.flightsafetyaustralia.com/2016/08/engineering-the-future/
Written by Peter Needham