Hampton, GA Facility Suffered Similar Glitch On August 21
"One more example of America's deteriorating air travel
system." That's how the Travel Industry Association summarized
Tuesday's massive breakdown in the nation's air traffic control
network, after a software glitch essentially closed one of two FAA
centers that process instrument flight plan information.
As ANN reported, the glitch caused a
communications link to be severed between FAA facilities in
Hampton, GA and Salt Lake City that handle IFR flight plans. The
problem shut down the Hampton facility, and overwhelmed personnel
in Utah who were forced to do their best to handle all flight plans
filed by pilots throughout the lower 48 states.
The end result? According to the FAA, 646 flights were delayed
on the ground, as crews waited for their IFR clearances... with
many more downline flights similarly delayed. At one point, the
agency stopped accepting new flight plans completely -- and the
FAA's Web site showing the status of flights was a sea of red, with
three dozen airports showing delays and an advisory for passengers
to check their departure airports for more information.
The communications breakdown even caused some problems for
flights already in the air -- contrary to earlier FAA statements --
though officials stressed there was never a safety problem.
The Associated Press reports most of the delays had worked
through the system by Wednesday morning, with flights largely back
on schedule but for weather issues in the eastern US. "It usually
takes a while to be quite honest," said FAA spokeswoman Diane
Spitaliere, adding the agency is investigating what went wrong.
Of course, an occasional glitch is to be expected... but there's
no reason to believe such a problem -- or one even worse -- won't
happen again, for the simple reason that it's happened so many
times before. (If you doubt that, do a search on ANN for "FAA
glitch," and start reading. Not all the stories that come up are
related to problems at FAA centers, but most of them are --
In fact, the Hampton facility suffered what the FAA stressed was
an "unrelated" hardware failure on August 21, that also led to
problems processing flight plans. At least 134 flights were delayed
due to that error.
Quick to recognize an opportunity to tap into voter frustration,
Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and his Republican
counterpart, John McCain, each issued separate statements Tuesday
on the matter. McCain said the problem "once again highlights the
need to reform and repair a broken system," while Obama said
"airline passengers are sick and tired of delays and
The FAA has no reason to disagree... especially as the agency
has said repeatedly it needs funding to start much-needed upgrades
to the nation's aging air traffic infrastructure, to better handle
the increased volume of air traffic.
Funding the FAA says it needs to start doing that
stalled in the Senate earlier this year, as
most ANN readers are well aware.