FAA systems problems hold up flights in the East

FAA systems problems hold up flights in the East

Glitches crash air traffic control computers in separate events, but Year 2000 isn't the culprit

By Christopher J. Dorobek

and Patricia Daukantas

GCN Staff

A pair of hiccups in Federal Aviation Administration systems led to multiple flight delays along the Eastern Seaboard early this month. Neither was year 2000-related.

On Jan. 6, a software glitch prevented flight plans from being transferred to the Host air traffic control system, delaying flights for several hours, FAA spokesman Frasier Jones said.

Problems began overnight as FAA technicians were conducting a standard restart of the system that gathers flight plans and transmits to Host, Jones said. At the same time, information about a flight from Raleigh-Durham International Airport in North Carolina was transmitted to the system. The Raleigh-Durham data jammed in the buffer program and blocked other flight plans from being uploaded.

The blockage caused error messages to pile up and overload the system. Technicians restored the system through a reboot, Jones said.

The problem came on the heels of an unrelated computer snafu at the FAA center in Nashua, N.H., which controls flights in New England. The main computer there was down for about three hours on Jan. 3.

That crash occurred when one of three IBM Corp. logical disk drive assemblies in the Boston en route air traffic control center failed. FAA took it out of service. The device was brought back online prematurely, creating multiple error messages in the Host computer, said Jim Peters, spokesman for FAA's Eastern Region Headquarters in New York.

While the Nashua center worked on the problem, it switched to a backup computer that mirrors Host's memory before an outage.

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