A summer to remember: Avoiding airport failure in 2019

In 2018, we saw some of the biggest airport glitches in recent history. An entire European country was forced to close its airspace after a technical glitch, a major UK airport saw all flight information screens fail, and hundreds of flights were cancelled after reports of drones on runways.

It’s 2019 and already, a US-government shutdown affected four major airports, ice and snow lead to serious delays at Dublin, and two planes clipping their wings on the tarmac at Newark added to the woes for air passengers.

In the UK, IATA research estimates that up to five million extra seats are scheduled for 2019 compared to 2018 in order to meet consumer demand. Many of these will be in the peak summer season when families are booking holidays.

Whatever the outcome, there will be considerable pressure on the air traffic control room which is often the source – and savior – of technical glitches. But knowing the when pressure will peak allows operators to assess their systems’ readiness to cope with unprecedented demand.

 

Prepare for component failure

When it comes to looking after your customers, it’s time to go back to the basics. No matter how tough or durable a system is, most people accept that it will fail at some point in its lifecycle – whether through an internal weakness or because of a power outage. Single points of failure are parts of a system that can cause the entire system to stop working, should it fail. While these are undesirable, in many cases, eliminating a single point of failure is impossible.

Increasingly, organizations are recognizing that they must have built-in contingency measures to address this eventuality. Total shutdown is unacceptable because of the chaos and danger it could cause, particularly in high-pressure sectors like consumer transport. Therefore, it’s best for organizations to either isolate the failure or invest in more reliable equipment.

 

With this in mind, here are three key considerations that we advise our customers make to remove single points of failure:

 

Management or Automation systems

A server failure could lead to a large proportion of your systems becoming inoperable. The obvious solution is to ensure that multiple manager systems are installed but it is also important that you fully understand the failover process and the limited capabilities that may be imposed when operating on a back-up server. The best solutions will enable the secondary manager to take over instantly and automatically without human intervention. If this is possible, the control room will not lead to even greater disaster.

 

Prepare for power supply failure

To protect against this possibility, ensure you have a power distribution unit with multiple power supplies and multiple sources of power. It’s critical that if a source of power is lost, a secondary source is available to all devices. For example, a control room could switch over to a generator. The ideal solutions are load balanced between source A and source B when the system is running perfectly so that if one of those power sources disappears, the 2nd power source will take over the full running of the system immediately

 

What happens if the network fails?

We rely on networks for almost every aspects of our lives and while they are amongst some of the most reliable and resilient technologies available, we must accept that something will go wrong at some point. If a network switch fails, it could be catastrophic if you have not designed a robust, resilient network architecture. In the control room, a network failure could lead to a lack of data, incorrect data visualisation or a reduction in communication, all of which could put people at risk.  Of course, network engineers can design resilient networks that deal with these failures with limited downtime and network vendors provide outstanding levels of support to their customers. There is however a further strategy to reduce downtime to zero.

Technologies designed for mission critical environments enable connections to two different networks so that even in the event of a network switch failure, there would be an instant failover to the secondary network. Just like the power resilience above, the very best solutions will be automatic & data would load balance so that the operator experiences zero downtime.

As organizations in the transportation industry will know, issues with the mass movement of people are highly publicized. When airports face outages, or flights are cancelled, the brand damage both on news sites and across social media cannot be underestimated. In order to prepare for peak times, such as bank holidays and school vacations, it’s vital that airports check that their systems have the resilience and redundancy to cope with downtime or failure. While this may feel like a basic plan, it’s startling how many airports fail to prepare contingency plans. By preparing to fail, organizations can save money, hold onto their reputations, and give customers a summer to remember – in a good way.

 

 

 

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