Cause of FAA computer glitch still not determined

Officials at the Federal Aviation Administration say they haven't determined precisely what caused a glitch Aug. 26 in the system that handles flight plans, but they expect the system to back online soon.

According to FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto, the failure of the National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN) at an FAA facility in Atlanta primarily affected flight departures east of the Mississippi and resulted in delays of 45 to 90 minutes while pilots waited for flight plans to be cleared by a system in Salt Lake City. That system usually handles aircraft departing from airports west of the Mississippi.

'Something was corrupted in a file that brought the whole system down,' Takemoto said. 'We're trying to figure out precisely what went wrong.'

When the system in Atlanta crashed, the one in Salt Lake City automatically took up the slack, he added. 'Salt Lake City is designed to handle 125 percent of Atlanta's normal volume,' he said. 'But it quickly became more than that because airlines were starting to refile flight plans that were kicked out. That created huge queues, so the system couldn't handle any of them.'

Takemoto said the NADIN system in Atlanta is up and running again, though it will be kept off-line until diagnostic tests are completed sometime today.

Although the FAA has not yet provided information on the NADIN system's hardware and software, Takemoto described it as ancient and a poster child for next-generation technology. He added that a new system will be in place by the end of the year.

'The new system has memory that is exponentially larger so that it can handle big spikes like what happened yesterday,' he said.

About the Author

Patrick Marshall is a freelance technology writer for GCN.


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