A corrupt file contained in a normal software upload brought down the FAA's main flight planning computer on Tuesday, delaying hundreds of flights and prompting questions about the inevitability of it happening again. FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto told eWeek the corrupt file stopped flight plans from being filed at the FAA's Hampton, Ga., facility, which is the principal flight planning computer. "Basically, all the flight plans that were in the system were kicked out," Takemoto said. "For aircraft already in the air, or had just been pushed back form the gate, they had no problems. But for all other aircraft, it meant delays."
The system switched to the FAA's backup flight planning computer in Salt Lake City, which was quickly overwhelmed by airlines trying in vain to enter flight plans. "They just kept hitting the 'Enter' button. So the queues immediately became huge," Takemoto said. "On top of that, it happened right during a peak time as traffic was building. Salt Lake City just couldn't keep up." The Georgia computer was fixed in two and a half hours but it wasn't until the FAA asked airlines to stop filing flight plans that the backlogs started to clear. All was reported normal on Wednesday but eWeek is openly wondering how much longer the "a creaky old IT system" can continue. They system is more than 20 years old and the company that built it has been out of business most of that time, eWeek reported.