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Air traffic radar failure in USA

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October 21, 2000 

  

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Air traffic controllers grounded hundreds of airliners headed into the Southwest on Thursday because of repeated failures of the radar computer guiding flights into the region.


"We're in a national ground stop now. All aircraft coming into this area will be stopped on the ground,'' Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Jerry Snyder said after the computer failed for a second time. A backup system took over and there were no safety problems for aircraft in the air, Snyder said. The failure was the result of a computer software upgrade Wednesday night.


"When the systems were being brought back up on line, it failed. It's not accepting the software,'' Snyder said.


The backup system doesn't have the automatic feature that passes off planes from one regional controller to another, and requires a controller to manually type the flight information.


The first main computer outage lasted 100 minutes, from 6:50 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. The computer went down again at 9 a.m. and was restored again at 10:30 a.m., but the hold on incoming flights was not immediately lifted.


The radar system at the FAA's Los Angeles Center, 60 miles north of downtown in the Mojave Desert community of Palmdale, covers most of California and parts of Nevada and Utah.


"This was a standard upgrade. It was new software. Something is corrupting the system,'' Snyder said.


Flights were backed up at Los Angeles International Airport but the exact number of aircraft delayed was unknown, said Gail Gadei, the Department of Airports spokeswoman.


San Francisco International Airport spokesman Ron Wilson said about 20 flights were grounded there because of the first outage. United Airlines canceled 32 flights into and out of San Francisco. "The domino effect will probably last all day,'' Wilson said.


At least 40 flights were grounded in Las Vegas during the first outage, said Hillary Gray, spokeswoman at McCarren International Airport. Departure delays continued for hours, she said.


Snyder said radar system failures "happen from time to time,'' noting an August outage in Oakland. Flights into and out of San Francisco International Airport and San Jose International Airport experienced delays of about an hour.



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