Air travelers up and down the Eastern Seaboard were delayed Friday morning due to a software glitch affecting controllers working the airspace around three New York airports. A separate radar mishap later resulted in controllers' receiving incomplete information about Air Force One.
The president's plane was heading from Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland to Hanscom Field in Bedford, Mass., when air-traffic controllers lost some of the information on the radar screen regarding the plane. The partial loss of information, which occurred at 8:11 a.m., lasted for 24 seconds and occurred again 6 minutes later for 36 seconds.FAA spokesman Eliot B. Brenner said the president was never in any danger. Controllers stayed in radio contact with Air Force One the entire time, he said.
The outage occurred at the $8 million Gibbsboro, N.J., radar facility, one of 44 such systems installed around the country in the past two years. In March, when Clinton was flying to Connecticut, the same radar had a similar malfunction.
Friday's problem with the New York-area radar meant that air-traffic controllers working in the airspace around the area's three airports - John F. Kennedy, LaGuardia and Newark - did not receive critical information on their radar screens. While the blips of planes were showing up, information including the airline, type of aircraft, flight number, altitude and speed was lost.
"We had to slow the system down, putting ground stops in some cities and spacing out planes in flight," said FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac. The trouble began shortly before 5:30 a.m., when officials were finished testing new software and tried to bring back up the old software. By 7:30 a.m. the problems were resolved.
The FAA had no immediate information on the number of flights delayed. "We were digging out for quite a while," Salac said.
In Boston, Logan Airport yestereday was experiencing "no repercussions" as a result of the New York computer failure, according to Georgeane Tacelli, a spokeswoman for MassPort.