19 November 2009

ATC problems on East Coast (Computer Failure)

Thu, Nov 19, 2009 Eric Torbenson/Reporter

Looks like a computer equipment failure at the Federal Aviation Administration has caused some problems at airports around the country, but mostly concentrated in the Northeast where airlines and airports are dealing with bad weather to boot.

So far little impact at Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport and Dallas Love field according to both Flightstats.com and http://www.fly.faa.gov/flyfaa/usmap.jsp. But the northeast airports are sort of lit up like a Christmas tree in terms of yellow and red delay status.

Terry got an update from American Airlines:

American Airlines Inc. spokesman Tim Smith said "the FAA issues had slowed American's operations somewhat, but serious. "I think we're doing pretty well, actually," Smith said.

He said American had been informed that the FAA computer problem had been resolved. With that, American and other carriers will simply have to catch up from the earlier problems, he said.
"Our longest delay... was just over an hour," Smith said. As he scanned American's schedule, "I saw nothing extreme. I saw some flights that were on time, a few that were early and others that had a 10-minute delay, 15 minutes, 25, all well under an hour," Smith said.
Smith said that American's D/FW Airport arrivals had averaged 94 percent on time at that point.

FlightStats.com indicated that as of 9:50 a.m., 64 percent of Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport's flights had departed on time, and 88 percent of arrivals were on time or within 14 minutes of schedule.
More on the problem, ATC controllers union and FAA responses after the click:

The problem, according to wires:
Flights nationwide were delayed this morning after a mysterious nationwide computer glitch hampered a key Federal Aviation Administration flight processing system.
The system electronically inputs pilots' flight plans to computers, telling air traffic controllers the anticipated route and altitude of each flight after taking off. Controllers reached by ABC News say they have had to enter those plans manually, resulting in a slowdown of takeoffs and landings.

From the National Air Traffic Controllers Association:
WASHINGTON - There has been a major, nationwide air traffic control computer system outage this morning, and it is having a severe, negative impact on air travel across the country. Here is what we know thus far:

The NADIN system (National Airspace Data- Interchange Network), which is the computerized system for processing flight plans and information for every flight in the country, has failed in both of its locations - Atlanta and Salt Lake City. We do not yet know the technical reason for the failure. We have some reports that the system is coming back online, which is good news, but there will be flight delays throughout the day due to the "ripple effect" of this outage.
The NADIN- failure has created a domino effect of problems throughout the country, starting with the inability of FAA automated ATC systems at major regional facilities to process flight information, forcing the manual input of information by air traffic personnel. Air traffic controllers are without electronic decision-making tools and cannot keep up with the sheer numbers of flights -- resulting in delays.

FAA's statement so far:
This is the Federal Aviation Administration with all the information we have at this time about this morning's equipment outage that has been affecting flights nationwide. My name is Elizabeth Isham Cory.

We are starting to see systems come back up (approx 8:34 a.m. local). We are still seeing some delay as the correction works through the system, so we recommend you check with your carrier before flight today.

Early this morning (NEW time, approx 6 a.m. Chicago), one of the two centers that handles the filing of flight plan information nationwide had a problem with the electronic system that files those plans. The other center picked up as much as possible, and any surplus flight plans were entered manually. Flight plans are filed before flight - they include information about the flight - including planned destination, route and fuel on board, among other things.

Any delays we saw today were at the gate. Flights in the air were safe - we could always see planes on radar and talk to them. Again, the planes that were affected today were on the ground at the gates.

Again, the system is back up, so we should see any remaining delay work its way through the system shortly. The FAA is working to determine the source of this problem.

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