FAA Authorities Still Trying to Explain Saturday Flight Control System Outage

Owen Humphreys/PA Wire URN:15449317 (Press Association via AP Images)
Owen Humphreys/PA Wire via AP

Once again the U.S. air traffic control system had a widespread outage that caused flights to be canceled and stranded passengers across the country, leaving authorities scrambling to find answers as to what happened.

The disruption from the crash of a system that routes planes through a 160,000 square mile section of airspace centered over Washington D.C., ended up delaying or causing the cancelation of hundreds of flights. It stranded thousands of passengers, some of whom now will not reach their destinations until Sunday evening.

The system is back up and running, but the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has yet to determine what caused the problem in the first place.

“The FAA is continuing its root cause analysis to determine what caused the problem and is working closely with the airlines to minimize impacts to travelers. We are directing high altitude traffic around the affected airspace,” the agency said in a statement.

Many passengers noted that the FAA never made any announcements about the outage or gave updates to passengers until the system was back online. Passengers were told by airlines that the fault was with the airports, in turn the airports blamed the FAA and all the while the FAA spent the whole day silent on the issue.

By some reports even the airlines and airports had no clue what was going on due to a lack of information from the FAA. That lack of information became so epidemic that many passengers began calling the outage “flypocalypse” on social media.

Finally, at 4:30 PM eastern, the FAA announced that the system was back up and operating.

The FAA eventually reported that the main outage was at the Washington air-traffic control center in Leesburg, VA where the computer system that processes flight plans for planes over 20,000 feet level abruptly ceased to operate. Authorities still don’t know why the outage occurred.

By some counts, over 400 flights were canceled by Saturday evening.

The FAA is not quite sure why the system went down, officials are still claiming that they do not think the cause was a hacker attack or any type of accident.

Follow Warner Todd Huston on Twitter @warnerthuston or email the author at igcolonel@hotmail.com


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