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Technical problem delays flights along East Coast

WASHINGTON — Air traffic was snarled on Saturday as many flights to and from airports throughout a large swath of the Northeast stretching from New York down to the Carolinas were delayed or canceled.

The Federal Aviation Administration blamed the problem on "technical issues" at an air traffic control center in Leesburg, Va. Around 4 p.m., the FAA said that the problem had been resolved.

Delays began building about 9:45 a.m., according to FlightRadar24, a flight monitoring website. Flights bound for airports in the Washington area were some of the most affected, including Washington's Reagan National Airport and Dulles International, as well as Baltimore-Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport and Charlotte-Douglas International Airport in North Carolina.

By midafternoon, 50 percent of inbound flights and 42 percent of outbound flights had been canceled at Reagan National, and delays were averaging about three hours, according to FlightRadar24. In Baltimore, 58 percent of inbound flights and 36 percent of outbound flights had been canceled, and delays were averaging over an hour.

Flights departing from Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey and John F. Kennedy and LaGuardia airports in New York that normally fly over the Washington region as they head southward were also affected, although the FAA had said it was trying to route the flights around the affected area.

FAA officials had no immediate estimate of how many flights were affected, but FlightRadar24 spokesman Ian Petchenik said it was certainly in the hundreds.

The FAA said the snarl was the result of an "automation problem" at the Leesburg center. The center handles high-altitude air traffic for the affected region. The problem wasn't believed to be caused by any accident or hacking.

Information posted online by the FAA indicated there was a problem with the En Route Automation Modernization computer system, also known as ERAM, at the Leesburg center.

The FAA finished installing the troubled computer system in the last of 20 high-altitude traffic control centers this year. The completion was years behind schedule.

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