All air traffic north of Røros in central Norway was halted Wednesday afternoon because of what state airport agency Avinor called a “technical error.” Officials later claimed the disruption was not a result of any cyber attack “or other external things.”
The air space over all of Northern Norway was closed for around 90 minutes because of the error at the air traffic control center in Bodø. Airborne flights were allowed to continue to their destinations, but most all flights were prohibited from taking off.
A few flights leaving from Kirkenes and Tromsø were allowed to depart when they could fly directly into Swedish and Finnish air space, through an agreement with the neighboring countries’ air traffic control officials. At one point, though, there were no flights to been seen on Norwegian radar over the northern areas of Norway, Sweden, Finland and northwestern Russia.
“This is neither a cyber attack or any other external things” like hacking, Raymond Ingebrigtsen, chief of the Bodø air traffic control center, told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) shortly after 2pm on Wednesday. “We have located the error internally.”
Delays and cancellations
He and his colleagues scrambled to locate what was referred to as a “weakness” in the system. NRK reported that they suspected the problem was in a program but couldn’t be certain until an analysis could be completed.
Ingebrigtsen said the error forced Avinor “to take down the radar systems that air traffic controllers use, to correct the error, run a test and then bring the radar systems back up again.”
Commercial airline traffic resumed around two hours after the shutdown, but flights all over Norway were delayed throughout the day and into the evening. Domestic airline Widerøe, which serves small airports with short runways in Northern Norway, was hit especially hard and had to cancel several departures.
“We have complex operations with lots of short routes and this will affect many passengers,” said Catarina Solli, communications chief at Widerøe. “We think this is very unfortunate but we’re doing what we can to re-book passengers on later flights.”
Airports in Trøndelag, Nordland, Troms and Finnmark ended up being packed with stranded passengers. Erik Lødding, communications chief for Avinor, stressed that no one was ever in danger.
“We had safe air space over Norway at all times,” he told NRK, adding that air ambulances were allowed to operate in the case of acute medical emergencies while the systems were down.