Computer-Related Issues Hit FAA and Australia's Westpac Bank

At 1640 CDST yesterday, air traffic controllers in the Federal Aviation Administration's Houston Air Route Traffic Control Center started seeing ghost images of the aircraft they were monitoring on their screens, reports the Houston Chronicle. As a consequence, the FAA decided to shut down the control center's computers. All air traffic coming into and out of the Houston region was affected until 1815 CDST.

The Chronicle stated that, "... about 40 Continental Airlines flights ... were delayed up to an hour and several Southwest Airlines flights across the Central Texas region that were delayed an average of 15 minutes."

Flights on their way to Houston or through the air traffic control center's area of responsibility also were slowed down and given extra space between them. There were no numbers given as to how many flights were slowed down or what delays were created elsewhere in US air traffic control system.

The FAA blamed the ghosting problem on an unspecified "equipment problem."

A more specifically identified equipment problem - namely air conditioners - caused headaches today for customers of Australia's Westpac Bank as well its subsidiary, St. Georges Bank, today.

According to various news reports including one at the Sydney Morning Herald, somewhere around 0500 and 0600 AEST, Westpac suffered an air-conditioning problem at one of its data centers which caused a shut-down of its online banking site and some of its ATM and EFTPOS (electronic funds transfer at point of sales) facilities across the country.

Westpac released a statement around noon saying that it "sincerely apologises to all our customers who have been impacted by today’s outage" and that:

 "We take systems reliability extremely seriously and are very disappointed by the inconvenience to our customers and will undertake a thorough review."

After announcing just yesterday that it had increased its profits by 38% and with a major banking glitch last September still fresh, customers may be taking Westpac's "we take systems reliability extremely seriously" bit with a grain of salt.

The outage caused problems for travelers on New South Wales Transport who wished to pay for their trips by credit or debit cards. They were told to pay in cash instead, which I am sure pleased them no end. The problem also affected travelers trying to top off their Myki cards.

Full banking services were not restored until after 1400 AEST. Westpac said that customers who were forced to go to its branch banking offices as a consequence of the outage would not be charged fees for teller transactions. How nice.

The outage was one of many that have hit the Australian banking industry the past six months. National Australia Bank and the Commonwealth Bank of Australia have had several high profile problems of late, for instance.

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