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[liberationtech] Airline Shutdown Because of Loss of Internet Service?

Bernard Tyers - ei8fdb ei8fdb at ei8fdb.org
Thu Jun 6 08:20:12 PDT 2013


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Not knowing the detail of the situation, I am making an educated guess based on experience and prior-knowledge of dealing with similar situations in the past.. 

The technical reason of "The Internet is down" can span from a) the computer used by the company dispatcher is broken, through to b) the network switching equipment that connects that part of the airport to the wide area network is down to c) the airport Internet fibre-optic connection serving the whole airport has been cut by roadworks outside the perimeter.

In short, it means nothing. It reminds me of the excuse used by the city transport system where I used to live "there are leaves on the track". It's an chestnut that serves a purpose of giving some, but not enough, information for the cause of the issue.

To maybe expand Richard's description: the "Internet" is not just consumer grade broadband Internet service provision, or consumer websites like Google, Yahoo, Facebook.

It is also tier 1 infrastructure services: carriers who carry other businesses traffic. While not exactly the same, think local delivery companies who use Fed-Ex or DHL as an inter-city delivery backbone.

"The Internet" in this case could have been a) the logistics system used by the airline to dispatch the plane (maybe they should have kept their paper-based load sheet system?), b) the Internet connection they used to access the logistics system was down (maybe they should have paid for a better service level agreement), c) anything else.

It shouldn't surprise you (it certainly doesn't surprise me) that the Internet has become such a fundamental service that so many of use rely on. It's a great utility while it works. The problem like all other utilities is when it goes away. 

I know this doesn't help your specific situation, but it'd be very difficult with no actual information :)

I hope that helps a little,

Bernard 


On 6 Jun 2013, at 15:50, michael gurstein wrote:

> Thanks Richard and this runs on the open Internet?
> 
> M
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu
> [mailto:liberationtech-bounces at lists.stanford.edu] On Behalf Of Richard
> Brooks
> Sent: Thursday, June 06, 2013 10:00 AM
> To: liberationtech
> Subject: Re: [liberationtech] Airline Shutdown Because of Loss of Internet
> Service?
> 
> 
> On 06/06/2013 03:45 AM, michael gurstein wrote:
>> This is probably not a Liberation issue directly but I'm not sure 
>> where else to address it...
>> 
> 
>> Sunday I was flying (Porter Airlines--small short hop Canadian 
>> carrier) from NYC to Ottawa, ON with a plane change in Toronto. When 
>> we arrived in Toronto we were informed that "because the Internet was 
>> down" planes were not able to land or depart.  The company's service 
>> was completely shut down for roughly 4 hours until the "Internet 
>> service" was restored (presumably by their ISP).
>> 
>> I understand that other airlines have had similar experiences recently.  
>> 
>> My question... how exactly is Internet service so intertwined with 
>> flight operations that service can function only if the Internet is
> operational?
>> (And I guess the Liberation angle... if this is now pervasive for all 
>> airlines what is the hackable element of all this and where are the 
>> points of vulnerability etc.etc.?
>> 
> 
> This one is easy. Logistics. Airlines have enormous optimization routines
> mapping planes, crews and passengers to flights. This allows them to shave
> off overhead and make a profit. If the network is down, they won't know who
> should fly where.
> 
>> M
>> 
>> 
>> 
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- --------------------------------------
Bernard / bluboxthief / ei8fdb

IO91XM / www.ei8fdb.org

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