At most times the skies over the U.S. have about 5,000 aircraft enroute from somewhere to some place and more during busy travel times like the wind down from summer travel. Well, on Tuesday 8/26/2008 the computer in Atlanta that handles most aircraft flight plans went down early in the afternoon causing backups and delays across the country.
The FAA immediately switched to its backup system in Salt Lake City, however the necessity to refile so many airline flight plans quickly overwhelmed that system as well while airline employees responsible for entering these flight plans just keep hitting the “Enter” key causing the queues to become huge.
The FAA computer could not keep up, so the FAA asked the airlines to stop filing flight plans until the system could catch up. Holds were placed on arriving flights at some airports while the system was being brought back on line.
According to officials at the FAA this computer system is over 20 years old, and the company that built it has been out of business for about the same length of time, probably as a result of the bid they “won” from the FAA to build the system.
While computers have certainly changed our lives, I sometimes wonder if we aren’t becoming slaves to a system meant to make our lives better. With the rapid advance of technology it is hard to keep up with our own home computers; just think what it would take to update the FAA computer system. By the time they could build it the system would probably be obsolete.
Oh well, you can file flight plans once again my friends, and aviate to where ever you want in complete confidence with the FAA and its 20 year old computer system. Just be sure and keep your eyes wide open and your ear to the radio – surely the next delay is only moments away!
Until next time keep your wings straight and level Hersch!