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Computer failure causes East Coast flight delays

June 09, 2007|From the Associated Press

A cascading computer failure in the nation's air traffic control system caused severe flight delays and some cancellations Friday along the Eastern Seaboard.

A computer system in Atlanta that processes pilots' flight plans and sends them to air traffic controllers failed late Thursday or early Friday, said Diane Spitaliere, a spokeswoman for the Federal Aviation Administration.

In response, the agency rerouted the system's functions to a computer in Salt Lake City, which overloaded because of the increased volume of data, magnifying the problem.

The FAA could not immediately calculate the number of flight delays caused by the problem, but the situation was exacerbated by bad weather, Spitaliere said.

The computer problem was fixed shortly before 11 a.m. EDT, but its effect lingered into the late afternoon, especially in New York, Spitaliere said.

Linda Rutherford, a spokeswoman for Southwest Airlines, said the airline had delays on about 40% of its 3,300 daily flights -- the majority caused by the air traffic control problems.

American Airlines experienced about 50 cancellations on the East Coast, with LaGuardia departures hardest hit, airline spokesman Tim Wagner said.

Hundreds of flights in both directions were delayed for two to three hours at LaGuardia, John F. Kennedy International and Newark Liberty International airports, said Steve Coleman, spokesman for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey.

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