Flight delays, cancellations from glitch

A Delta Airlines jet at Atlanta-Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta

TEXT OF INTERVIEW

Steve Chiotakis: The start of the business day is grounded for some in the busy morning rush hour. We're getting word this morning that a glitch in the Federal Aviation Administration computer program that tracks flight plans has caused widespread flight delays and cancellations. These are flights all along the East Coast. Delta and AirTran are particularly affected, and both have hubs at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta.

Let's talk with airline analyst David Field. He's with us live this morning from Virginia. Good morning, David.

David Field: Good morning.

Chiotakis: So based on what you know, do you have a sense of what kind of impact this s is having?

Field: It's having nationwide impact. The computer system is used to load flight plans for individual airplanes. And it covers the entire eastern half of the U.S., everything east of the Mississippi. There's another computer in Salt Lake City that does similar stuff. When the computer went down at about 6:20 this morning, pilots had to reload their flight plans by hand. And this lead the FAA to a conundrum -- what are you going to do when you can't get the flight plans up and flying? And they decided to impose delays at the busiest part of the system, which happens to be Atlanta, which is where the computer happens to be. And that's why Delta, the major airline at Hartsfield, and AirTran, the number two airline at Hartsfield, are the most heavily impacted airlines so far.

Chiotakis: Give us an idea, David, I mean manually doing these flight plans, that's got to be a hassle.

Field: It's a hassle. It slows things down, and the fact is, the fact that you have to do them a second time is a hassle. Because the pilots had already done most of these flight plans once, and when the computer rejected them they have do to them again. They include things like the aircraft number, the flight number, the planned altitudes, the planned way points that the route will take the aircraft over, and the planned speed.

Chiotakis: Yeah. So I mean, is it a common thing, very quickly, does this happen a lot?

Field: It happens more than it should, it happens more than you think it would. The last time this happened was in August of 2008, and that took a whole day to dig out from under.

Chiotakis: All right. Well David Field, airline analyst, we appreciate you being with us this morning.

Field: My pleasure.

About the author

Steve Chiotakis was the host of Marketplace Morning Report until January 2012.

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