A smaller Paris airport was essentially shut down last weekend, with planes grounded for several hours. The reason: a series of errors all emanating from software run by the ancient Windows 3.1 operating system.
On the morning of November 7th, the runway of Paris Orly airport closed down. Flights supposed to land there were diverted to Lyon and Charles de Gaulle airports. This all took place after the system called DECOR caused a critical infrastructure failure.
DECOR is crucial for planes taking off and landing in low-visibility conditions like fog and mist. The system directly links air traffic control systems with Meteo France.
Interestingly, the critical system runs on Windows 3.1, the operating system that was released in 1992 and retired at the end of 2001.
As reported in the French magazine, Le Canard Enchainé, only three engineers are allowed to touch the “capricious beast.” And, those very same engineers worked for many hours to restore DECOR before the airport’s runway was ultimately closed for about an hour after some heavy fog set in.
The outage also dampened some political functions. The French Republican party was left without two major players, former Prime Minister Alain Juppé and MP Eric Ciotti, as they were left stranded at their points of origin.
But, there’s more.
After the engineers eventually restored the system and the airport reopened the runway, a spokesperson for the Ministry of Transport issued a statement that the system will definitely be updated and modernized - but not until 2017.
An anonymous Air Traffic Control worker told Le Canard Enchainé that, “Saturday morning, air traffic was not that busy but think about it, if during [a sustainable development forum in Paris held the week of 7 December], the coming and going of heads of state gets disrupted by a prehistoric piece of software, what are we going to look like?”
It is appears that this is the first grounding of flights due to such an ancient operating system.