FAA Blames Software Glitch For System Failure


The ATC problems that grounded hundreds of flights on Saturday were caused by “a recent software upgrade” at the high-altitude radar facility in Leesburg, Virginia, the FAA said in a statement on Monday. The upgrade, which was installed by Lockheed Martin Corp., had a new function that allowed controllers to set up a customized window of frequently referenced data, the FAA said. But as controllers used the new function, deleted settings weren’t deleted from the system memory, and the storage capacity was overloaded. “This consumed processing power needed for the successful operation of the overall system,” the FAA said.

The FAA said it has temporarily suspended the use of this function, and is working with Lockheed on a permanent solution. “The company is closely examining why the issue was not identified during testing,” the FAA said. During the system failure, the FAA reduced the arrival and departure rates in the region for five hours, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., “for safety reasons.” That limitation affected about 30 percent of the average normal Saturday traffic at Baltimore, 28 percent at Reagan National, and 12 percent at Dulles, the FAA said. That added up to more than 8,000 flight delays and 888 cancellations, according to The Hill, which added that the FAA is “downplaying” the impact of the “flypocalypse.” U.S. Rep. John Mica, R-Fla., said he will introduce legislation to require the FAA to provide better information about computer-related flight delays, The Hill reported.”Thousands were left in the dark without information until more than four hours after the meltdown was solved,” Mica said in a statement. “This type of air-traffic control failure cannot be permitted in the future, especially in our nation’s capital.”