This is the third time in a little over three years that a glitch in the FAA system that collects airlines’ flight plans has caused massive delays. And as far as we can tell, there’s never been an adequate explanation for the outages.
Nearly all commercial flight plans for the east coast are processed through a facility south of Atlanta. It appears that this is again the facility that has run into a glitch. The Atlanta facility also ran into problems processing data in August of 2008 and June of 2007.
Right now the FAA says it is investigating the cause of the problem. Let’s hope public attention remains focused enough that the FAA is finally made to explain the glitch. Three years in a row is too steady of a pattern of problems.
Incidentally, the FAA says there is no danger from the failure of the flight plan system, but this isn’t quite true. An aviation security expert we spoke with this morning said the glitch is almost certainly making it harder to detect when planes have deviated from their flight plan, a key indicator of a terrorist high jacking. We don’t want to be alarmist about this, of course, but we thought we should share this possibility.
Here’s the AP report on today’s Glitch.
There are widespread flight cancellations and delays across the U.S. Thursday because of a problem with the FAA system that collects airlines’ flight plans.
FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said she doesn’t know how many flights are being affected or when the problem will be resolved.
An AirTran Airways spokesman said there’s no danger to flights in the air, and flights are still taking off and landing.
However, spokesman Christopher White said flight plans are having to be inputted manually because of a malfunction with the automated system.
“Everything is safe in the air,” White said.
Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest airport, has been particularly affected.
AirTran had canceled 22 flights and dozens more flights were delayed as of 8 a.m. EST. Delta Air Lines also has been affected.
The FAA said in a statement that it is having a problem processing flight plan information.
“We are investigating the cause of the problem,” the agency said. “We are processing flight plans manually and expect some delays. We have radar coverage and communications with planes.”
Passengers are being asked to check the status of their flights online before going to airports.