Software Problem Halts US Flights


According to news reports, a suspected software problem at 1325 yesterday caused a communication failure at a Hampton, Georgia, Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) facility that processes flight plans for the eastern half of the US. As a result, hundreds of flight across the country were delayed. The US East Coast was hardest hit, but the ripple effects were felt throughout the US with over three dozen airports experiencing delays.

To cope with the problem, the FAA shifted the load to its other flight plan processing center in Salt Lake City, Utah which can handle the load of approving flight plans, but at a much slower rate. The added airline flight plans had to be entered into computers manually and then processed by the system there in Salt Lake City, the FAA said. Instead of taking a few seconds, the process takes a few minutes.

However, at one point, airlines were told not to file any flight plans because things were getting so backed up.

The situation immediately became a US election issue, with both Senators John McCain and Barack Obama saying that the long-broken air traffic control system needed to be fixed.

This is the second problem at the Hampton FAA facility within the last week. A hardware problem six days ago delayed the departures of at least 134 flights.

Things were back to "normal" by early evening the FAA said.

The FAA also said it would work on ensuring this never happens again. Of course, it said that last year as well.


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Robert Charette
Spotsylvania, Va.
Willie D. Jones
New York City