FAA computer problems snarl flights nationwide


Well-known member
Apr 30, 2006
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UPDATE (9:32 a.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 19):
Though FAA's Atlanta computer outage will likely cause delays to ripple across the country, initial reports show the worst impact appears to coming in the South.

For example, WTOP News in Washington, D.C., reports that – so far – no resulting delays are being reported at the three D.C-area airports. WTOP adds that as of 8:46 a.m. ET, "there are about a dozen flights delayed at BWI, but those delays are for other reasons, such as weather."

Meanwhile, Today in the Sky reader Scott Shatzer of Chicago tells me that flight delays at Chicago O'Hare’s Terminal 3 appear to be minimal this morning. This picture, taken by Shatzer at 8 a.m. CT this morning at O'Hare, shows few delays on the American Airlines departure board. As of 8:15 a.m. CT, he says he's seen only one flight canceled – to Houston Intercontinental – and two delayed. Those delays, however – to Raleigh/Durham and Chattanooga – were "substantial," Shatzer says.
Meanwhile, USA TODAY’s Flight Tracker shows Atlanta being hit with the worst of the delays. The delays there are severe, according to FlightStats, which powers USA TODAY's Flight Tracker.

The FAA website also shows substantial delays at Atlanta. The FAA site also warns travelers about a "traffic management program" in effect for flights arriving to Atlanta. That, in simple terms, is a temporary move by the FAA that slows departures bound for Atlanta to allow controllers to add extra space between Atlanta-bound flights until the glitch is fixed. So, while some flights will leave Atlanta, expect the metering to create a backlog that will last at least until the program is lifted.

UPDATE (9:02 a.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 19): Some of the first reports of cancellations are coming in now, the results of an FAA computer glitch that is affecting flights this morning. The Associated Press reports"AirTran has canceled 22 flights and dozens more flights have been delayed as of 8 a.m. EST. Delta Air Lines also has suffered." AP adds "Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world's busiest airport, has been particularly affected" by the issue.

CNN reportsthe FAA computer system affected by the malfunction is centered in Atlanta. "The system -- the National Airspace Data Interchange Network, or NADIN -- appears to be the same one that failed in August 2008. The FAA said flight plans are being processed through the network's Salt Lake City, Utah office," CNN says on its website.

CBS Newsreporter Nancy Cordes has more on the subject via the CBS News website. CBS explains the NADIN "system is located in Atlanta and generates the flight plans for all flights on the East Coast." She says the glitch is forcing air traffic controllers in the already-congested New York City to space out planes by about 20 miles, instead of the normal eight miles.

CBS adds "the practical ramifications of this problem are that the entire air traffic control system on the East Coast is slowed to about 40-50% of what a normal day would look like. Controllers must input flight data for each takeoff and landing manually." Stay tuned for updates.

ORIGINAL POST (8:26 a.m. ET on Thursday, Nov. 19): ABC News is reporting that flights are being delayed nationwide by an "unknown computer glitch" within the Federal Aviation Administration. ABC says the issue is not a safety issue, but that it is forcing air traffic controllers to increase the distance between flights – something that effectively reduces an airport's landing capacity. New York airports, for example, are operating at about 50% of normal capacity during the glitch, ABC says this morning on Good Morning America.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitutionalso picks up on the story, writing "the computer glitch shut down most, if not all, departing flights at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport and other airports across the country Thursday morning." In a statement, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen is quoted by the paper as saying: "We are having a problem processing flight plan information. We are investigating the cause of the problem. We are processing flight plans manually and expect some delays."