(Updates with some airports returning to normal operations)
By Richard Cowan
WASHINGTON Aug 26 Air traffic at some major
U.S. airports was returning to normal on Tuesday after many
planes were delayed due to a glitch in the computer system for
filing flight plans, the Federal Aviation Administration said.
The Department of Homeland Security said there was no link
to terrorism and the FAA said the computer glitch did not
affect its ability to safely track planes in the air.
An FAA official told reporters during a conference call
that the agency hoped to have the problem resolved by around 6
p.m. (2200 GMT).
Flights from a wide swath of the United States, from Dallas
and Chicago to the East Coast, had been delayed, according to
"It looks like we're slowly starting to dig out of this,"
said Hank Krakowski, chief operations officer for the FAA's air
traffic division. FAA officials said they did not know how many
flights had been delayed by the computer breakdown.
Krakowski said operations in New York were normal and
delays in Boston were clearing up. He added that Baltimore's
airport was improving but still experiencing delays and
Washington, D.C., airports were operating normally.
FAA officials said the most significant delays appeared to
be continuing in Atlanta, which also was experiencing severe
thunderstorms in the region that further hampered travel.
Flights out of Chicago's O'Hare airport were experiencing
delays of more than one hour, Krakowski said.
FAA spokeswoman Diane Spitalire said the agency had never
experienced a computer problem this severe. "We've had some
equipment failures but not like this," she said.
The problem began at 1:25 p.m. (1725 GMT) when a
communications link failed in the system that processes flight
plans at a facility south of Atlanta, FAA officials said. The
cause of the failure was not known but it was not due to a
computer hacking attack, Krakowski said.
"It appears to be an internal software processing problem.
We're going to have to do some forensics on it," he said.
Flight plans include information like the type of aircraft,
destination and number of passengers.
The other flight-plan facility in Salt Lake City was now
handling the entire country, FAA spokeswoman Tammy Jones said.
An FAA official in Chicago said workers there were filing
flight plans by hand.
International flights were being given priority, the FAA
American Airlines flights are facing delays in the
Northeast "but not massively at this point," said Tim Smith, a
spokesman for the airline's parent company, AMR Corp. AMR.N
An FAA communications outage in Memphis last year caused
huge air-traffic snarls. The technicians' union blamed FAA
cost-cutting for reducing backup standards.
(Additional reporting by Andy Sullivan, Diane Bartz and
Randall Mikkelsen in Washington, Jim Loney in Miami, Kyle
Peterson and Andrew Stern in Chicago, Karen Jacobs in Atlanta,
Scott Malone in Boston and Anna Driver in Houston; editing by
David Alexander and Mohammad Zargham)