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FAA blames software for flight delays

WASHINGTON — A technical problem at an air traffic control center in Virginia that caused hundreds of flights to be delayed or canceled along a large swath of the East Coast was possibly caused by a software upgrade, according to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration on Sunday.

The FAA said the upgrade was designed to provide more tools for controllers, but the new features have been disabled while the systems contractor completes an assessment of the malfunction.

There were roughly 492 delays and 476 cancellations related to the technical problem, the agency said, which resulted in about 70 percent of normal Saturday air traffic at the Baltimore-Washington International Airport, 72 percent at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport and 88 percent at Dulles International Airport. Part of the backlog was the result of a decision to reduce arrival and departure rates in the Washington area between 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday for safety reasons.

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

The FAA initially blamed the problem on "technical issues" at an air traffic control center in Leesburg, Va. About 4 p.m., the agency said the problem had been resolved, and officials were working to lift any remaining orders to hold planes on the ground.

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