Memphis Airspace Closed During Equipment Failure

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The failure of a telephone line to Memphis Center on Tuesday morning crippled the facility, grounded dozens of flights and caused widespread delays in air traffic across the country. Without the phone line, controllers were unable to use most of their radio frequencies and some of their radar feeds as well, according to the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). They were also unable to make automated “handoffs” of flights to adjacent airspace sectors. Controllers, according to NATCA, "were thrust into an immensely chaotic situation in which they had to use personal cell phones to talk to other air traffic control facilities." By 1:30 p.m., the Center's 100,000 square miles of airspace had been completely cleared, the FAA said.

Displays of airborne traffic for a time this afternoon showed a giant hole with Memphis at the epicenter. It was a "bizarre sight," said NATCA spokesman Doug Church. Operations were back to normal by about 3:30, the FAA said.