Global air traffic control systems were facing gridlock Tuesday night after the United States, Canada and Israel closed all their airports. The ripple effect on scheduling is expected to last days or weeks, reported the Independent in London.
Airports may not have enough room for the hundreds of American-bound aircraft diverted to alternative destinations yesterday, aviation authorities said.
And the congestion at airports around the world worsened as officials in France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain ordered the grounding of aircraft operating on routes to the US and the Middle East.
A British Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) spokesperson stated that there would not be enough room on the ground if all the planes that should be in the air between Europe and America are grounded.
On an average day there are some 5,000 passenger and cargo planes in the air in the US, according to Air Transport Intelligence. There were 140 passenger planes in the sky between Europe and the US at 3pm yesterday when the American government alerted British air traffic control that it was shutting all its airports.
About 20 US-bound international flights were given clearance to land at American airports. The British airports operator BAA said it had accepted 70 aircraft, inbound and outbound, that were over the eastern Atlantic. The other 70 planes were accepted by Canada, which cancelled all remaining flights.
Airline logistics planners around the world are meeting to discuss how they will handle the diversions, as the air traffic control system is apparently designed to have one-third of all aircraft in the air at any time.
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