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FAA computer glitch sparks travel delays

by Joan Lowy, Associated Press Writer and Catherine Holland, azfamily.com

azfamily.com

Posted on November 19, 2009 at 3:46 PM

Updated Thursday, Nov 19 at 6:59 PM

WASHINGTON and PHOENIX -- FAA officials say failed computers that delayed flights across the country are now working again.

The air traffic controllers union says the computer failure involved both of the Federal Aviation Administration's computer centers in Salt Lake City and Atlanta.

Even though the FAA said Thursday the problem had been solved, Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Union, said controllers were still entering flight plans manually into computers in some locations.

The computers at the two centers, which handle flight plans for air traffic throughout the country, broke down early Thursday.

According to Deborah Ostreicher of Sky Harbor International Airport, there is a little bit of a ripple effect with delays throughout the country, but they seem to be relatively minor here in Phoenix. She advised that people who are planning to fly today check with their airlines to be on the safe side as some flights heading east could be delayed.

"If you're flying later today ... sometimes you can have a domino effect on these things," Ostreicher said. "Even if you hear everything has been repaired, sometimes there's a backup, so it's a good idea to check all day today."

Ostreicher said while the computer glitch, which could have affected the spacing of the planes, did touch off some delays, it did not pose any kind of safety concern.

"All it means is delays," she said. "Not a safety concern at all."

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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