A computer failure near Atlanta ricochets across the United States, with mass flight delays at U.S. airports, including Tampa, before things return to normal. Elsewhere around the world, a hijacking, an emergency landing and an overshot runway complicate things in the air. All in all, Tuesday was not a super day for summer travel.
In Tampa and across the U.S.
Hundreds of commercial airline flights were delayed across the eastern half of the United States on Tuesday in what the Federal Aviation Administration said was an unprecedented glitch in the federal computer system that processes flight plans. While the breakdown caused chaos at big-city airports — including Washington, New York, Atlanta and Boston — passengers were never in danger, FAA officials stressed. At Tampa International Airport, dozens of flights were canceled, spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said. By early evening, the FAA said the situation around the country was returning to normal, with delays remaining in Atlanta and Chicago. The problem began about 1 p.m. with a computer breakdown at the FAA's flight system outside Atlanta, then a backup system at Salt Lake City went into operation but overloaded, compounding the delays.
A Ryanair plane made an emergency landing in central France after it suddenly lost cabin pressure and was forced to descend 26,200 feet in five minutes, French officials said Tuesday. Up to 26 people were hospitalized, suffering mostly from chest, nose and ear pain. The Boeing 737 was carrying 174 passengers and crew from England to Spain. Passengers were "properly terrified," passenger Pen Hadow told Sky News.
Hijackers in the war-torn Darfur region seized a jetliner carrying nearly 100 people, including Darfur officials, and forced it to land at a World War II-era airfield in the Sahara Desert in neighboring Libya, officials said. A Libyan official at the remote Kufra airport said 10 hijackers from a Darfur rebel group demanded enough fuel for the Boeing 737 to continue to France, but the rebel Sudan Liberation Movement quickly denied any link to the hijacking. The flight was commandeered soon after taking off from Nyala, capital of southern Darfur, en route to Khartoum, the national capital, said Yusuf Ibrahim, director of Khartoum's airport. It was diverted to Kufra, a desert oasis in southeast Libya close to the Sudanese and Egyptian borders. Early today, the plane had not refueled, and it was not known whether the Libyans would allow it to do so.
An Air France jumbo jet carrying more than 500 passengers and crew overshot the runway as it landed Tuesday night in Montreal, but there were no injuries, an airport official said. The Boeing 747 arriving from Paris came to a stop with its nose wheel in the grass by the tarmac, airport spokeswoman Stephanie Lepage said.
Times staff and wires