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Computer glitch in Atlanta causes delays at Tampa airport

TAMPA — A Federal Aviation Administration computer glitch in Atlanta caused a backlog of flights on the East Coast on Thursday morning that could cause delays throughout the day.

At Tampa International Airport, about two dozen departures were delayed through noon, according to the flight-tracking Web site FlightStats.com.

More than 50 arriving flights were expected to be late at the airport today, said spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan,

The biggest problems were in Atlanta, the hub airport for Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways. But there also were delays in Charlotte, a major hub for US Airways. The airline reported all its morning flights out of Tampa were experiencing delays of 30 to 70 minutes, said Geoghagan. Delta is experiencing the longest delays, up to two hours or more.

CNN reported that the FAA solved the computer glitch at 8:22 a.m., but the backlog of flight delays that stacked up this morning will likely cascade through airlines' schedules.

Besides Atlanta, the FAA's Web site Thursday morning listed Washington National, Baltimore/Washington and Newark Liberty airports as having major delays

Tampa International advised travelers to check with their individual airlines or check TIA's Web site.

Among those waiting out delays at Tampa International Airport was Larry Russoniello, who raises horses in Ocala. He was scheduled to fly Delta to Lexington, Ky., through Cincinnati at 11:30 a.m., but the departure was delayed until 2:30 p.m.

He was worried about missing a horse sale that ends early this evening. ''This sucks,'' he said. "I'm going to get some drinks.''

Geoghagan said that at 5:30 a.m. various airport officials became aware of a failure on the National Airspace System Data Interchange Network, which provides automated inputs of flight plans into the air traffic control system.

The FAA advised TIA that there would be delays in Atlanta, Charlotte and Houston, so airports that use those cities as hubs would have serious impacts on their schedules.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen told the Associated Press that it is unknown how many flights are being affected nationwide by the glitch or when the problem will be fixed.

Flight plans are being processed through an office in Salt Lake City.

"We are investigating the cause of the problem," the agency said in a statement. "We are processing flight plans manually and expect some delays. We have radar coverage and communications with planes."

The FAA collects flight plans for traffic nationwide at two centers. One is in Salt Lake City, the other in Atlanta, Bergen said.

In August 2008, a software malfunction delayed hundreds of flights around the country. The northeast was hit hardest by the delays, which were prompted by a glitch at the Hampton, Ga., facility that processes the flight plans for the eastern portion of the U.S.

The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

According to Computerworld.com, several major airports, including those in New York City, Chicago, Boston and Dallas, showed no flights destined for Atlanta would be allowed to depart before 10 a.m.

According to the St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport's Web site, all flights are on time.

Some took to the Internet to voice their complaints.

For example, Twitter user devgirlFL tweeted around 8:45 a.m.: "Stuck on Tarmac @ TPA bound for Denver, FAA computer glitch this morning, wonderful . . ."

And here's kellymcb, an instructor at the Poynter Institute: "At Tampa Airport, apparently Air Traffic Control is down for the entire country, all flights going on a manual system. I HATE flying."

Computer glitch in Atlanta causes delays at Tampa airport 11/19/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 19, 2009 3:04pm]
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