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Computer problems delay flights across U.S.; effect on West Coast airports is unknown [Updated]

November 19, 2009 |  6:46 am

[Updated 7:21 a.m.: FAA spokesman Ian Gregor says the computer-system problem in Atlanta has been fixed, but there will be residual delays.

"The flight plan processing system has been restored. There will be some residual delays," Gregor said in an e-mail.]

Federal aviation officials said they are not sure whether a glitch in the FAA system that collects airlines' flight plans will affect travel to and from West Coast airports.

“It might be too early here for significant departure delays because traffic volume is light at this time of morning,” said Ian Gregor, communications manager for the Federal Aviation Administration’s Western-Pacific region.

Gregor confirmed the agency is currently having a problem processing flight plan information. Flight plans include all planned information for a flight, including destination, type of aircraft, speed and destination. They are processed nationwide by computers at facilities in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

Nationwide, there have been widespread cancellations and delays of flights this morning because of a problem with the system that processes flight plans in Atlanta.

The FAA is investigating the cause of the problem. Agency workers are processing flight plans manually and are experiencing delays.

Gregor said this is not a safety issue. “We have radar coverage and communications with planes,” he said.

[Updated 8:42 a.m.: Gregor said there was a similar problem with flight-plan processing in the Atlanta office in August 2008, delaying about 650 flights in the East and Midwest. An FAA spokesman at the time referred to it as an “internal software processing” problem. Gregor said there likely will be minimal effect on West Coast departures because the outage occurred early in the morning when traffic volume was low.

-- Baxter Holmes