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RDU travel returning to normal after delays

Posted November 19, 2009

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— Flight delays were unwinding across the country Thursday afternoon after an early morning software glitch prompted widespread problems in domestic air travel.

At Raleigh-Durham International Airport, the director declared all systems go just after 2 p.m.

The FAA system that plans flights went offline at about 5 a.m. The glitch was fixed by 10 a.m. but caused widespread flight cancellations and delays as air traffic controllers moved to a manual system of departures and arrivals.

RDU flights delayed after FAA software glitch RDU flights delayed after FAA software glitch

Airplane dispatchers had to send plans to controllers, who entered them into computers by hand.

"It's slowing everything down," FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said.

At noon., the FAA reported departure delays of less than 15 minutes at RDU. Charlotte had departure delays between 15 and 30 minutes.

General departure delays of over an hour developed in northeastern airports from Washington, D.C., north to New York City. Controllers in the congested New York City air space were putting about 20 miles between planes in the air instead of the typical 8 miles, to create extra safety buffers.

Passengers were asked Thursday afternoon to continue checking the status of their flights online before going to airports.

Flight plans are collected by the FAA for traffic nationwide at two centers, one in Salt Lake City and one in Atlanta.

Victor Santore, the National Air Traffic Controllers Union southern region vice president, said he began getting e-mail messages from air traffic controllers around 7 a.m. EST Thursday that the Atlanta-area computers had stopped processing flight plans.

Santore said some controllers were pulled away from their normal duties talking to airplanes or pulled off breaks to help enter the flight plans.

"When something crazy like this happens, we'll pull everybody onto the floor," Santore said. "Every airport at some point some will be affected ... (The delays) are going to ripple through the entire system."

In August 2008, a software malfunction delayed hundreds of flights around the country.

In that episode, the Northeast was hardest hit by the delays because of a glitch at the Hampton, Ga., facility that processes flight plans for the eastern half of the U.S.

The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

18 Comments

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  • Nunya123 Nov 19, 2009

    wattsun - think you've got that wrong. Obama isn't a puppet for wall street and big money, unless he turned Republican on us recently.

  • chivegas Nov 19, 2009

    There never were any delays at RDU...stop the sensationalism. Under 15 minutes is the FAA's definition of ontime (seriously, a flight that arrives less than 15 minutes late is considered on time in the BTS stats). Seriously folks, as a former ATC coordinator for an airline, this really was a red herring for 95% of the system. There were problems in the ATL filing facility, and it looks like they were the same probs from last year (which is an issue), but the system was never in "danger".

    Our ATC system does need a major overhaul (and some of it's being tested in the CO mountains near HDN), but it's not as critical as it once was, since the downturn in travel related to the economy... We just need to be ready 1-2 yrs from now when it comes back.

  • GoGreen Nov 19, 2009

    Flying today. Actually in the air writing this (Satellite WiFi if you are interested).

    No issues.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Nov 19, 2009

    gcmann, I'm as Hard-core conservative as they come. Although I fully understand what you're talking about, I'm not onboard. Yes, I can see how foreign countries that create these pre-programmed chips could incorporate code that could benefit them. But the US also has techies that watch for this stuff. They would notice stray code in short order. I also believe the US is home to TONS of foreigners that NOW call the US their home. I don't personally believe they would want to totally destroy the US. Because they would be destroying themselves and their new home. And I'm sure they love their new home, as liberal as we have become.

  • DeathRow-IFeelYourPain-NOT Nov 19, 2009

    And some people want to see cars drive themselves using computer software. LOL. I'm a network tech and would NEVER put my life in the hands of a computer programmer. Everyone makes mistakes. I would rather the mistake I'm involved with to be my own.

  • hkypky Nov 19, 2009

    http://www.faa.gov/about/initiatives/nextgen/

  • wattsun Nov 19, 2009

    "Come on President Obama please fix our flight control system and also make airline travel accessible to ALL Americans.Please"

    Pleez..I HOPE that post was sarcastic, Obama is not your savior.. He is nothing more than a puppet for wall street and Big money.
    If the poster is serious this is a prime example of the problem with the way our societies thinking is headed. A philosophy that government was created some how to grant your every need.
    Do yourself a favor Read and Learn the TRUE meanings of the US Constitution and Bill Of Rights before they are swept out the door.

  • gcmann Nov 19, 2009

    @ kcfoxie

    Please remove your head from the sand.
    Unless you are a corporate shill, then keep it there.

  • kcfoxie Nov 19, 2009

    gcmann: you dropped your tin foil hat.

  • hkypky Nov 19, 2009

    "The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

    Really!? I can't wait for the update to this story explaining that one.

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