Air Traffic shut down in Nw : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

The Seattle Air traffic computers shut down for 1 hour this afternoon. As you can imagine there were a lot of planes in holding patterns and sitting on the runways. The Seattle Air Traffic Center controls planes for Washington, Oregon, northern Ca and most of Idaho. Anyplane flying in that area is controlled by Seattle.

I worked therer for 17 years and never saw a shutdown for more than a few minutes.

Maybe a test of the systems?

Martin From the crowded skies of the NW.

-- Martin Thompson (, January 15, 1999


Yep, have inside info that the controllers are *not* happy campers. System backlogged, flight cancellations, planes from East told not to fly to Cascadia. Power went out, back-up generators failed to work, Plan B failed [what's new?], took out the whole area. Oops. Y2K's gonna be a mess, no doubt about it. Everybody still surprised at the interconnections.

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-- Leska (, January 15, 1999.

Planes were grounded for 2 hours, "air traffic all over the Northwest was thrown into turmoil and gridlock when the main air route control center for the region went down. That center is located in Auburn, Wash., near Seattle, but controls traffic in much of Oregon, Washington, Northern California, Idaho, Montana and Nevada.

The Federal Aviation Administration says a backup power generator failed at SeaTac International, triggering the radio and radar failure."

SeaTac, home of Boeing, prolly some startled ppl?

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-- Leska (, January 15, 1999.

More InterConnectedness Failure News:
CRYSTAL RIVER, Fla. (AP) - When the mysterious white car with tinted windows and a small satellite dish on top pulled up to Calvin Simpson's motor home, the retired engineer was puzzled.

``I thought, ``What are those guys doing?' Then they came up to me, and I said, ``Uh-oh.' ''

The men, engineers for GTE Wireless, had found their culprit. For 10 days, Simpson's cellular phone had been jamming cellular service for tens of thousands of customers in Florida's Citrus and Hernando counties.

GTE Wireless customers in the region began reporting trouble with their phones on Jan. 4 - the same day Simpson, 74, brought his motor home to the Crystal Isle RV Resort for the winter from his home in South Portland, Maine.

Engineers still aren't sure what caused the problem, but they think Simpson's phone was constantly transmitting signals to a ``set-up channel'' on a cellular phone tower behind Crystal River's City Hall. The channel is supposed to take signals and relay them to their destinations.

Simpson's phone, however, sent signals to the channel even when he wasn't trying to make a call. Whenever his phone was on, the constant signal prevented any cellular phone user from making a call via that tower.

GTE Wireless spent days in Crystal River trying to figure out what was causing the outage before tracking the faulty signal to Simpson's cellular phone. They used the same technology cellular phone companies use to track stolen cell phones.

Once they found Simpson on Wednesday, they simply asked him to turn off his cell phone.

Like magic, GTE Wireless was back in service in Crystal River. ``When I pulled the plug, they had a big sigh of relief,'' Simpson said.

The engineers who tracked him down got Simpson a new cell phone. The company plans to take Simpson's old, faulty phone apart in hopes of finding out exactly what it was that went wrong.

A spokesman for GTE wouldn't specify how many cell-phone customers the company has, but estimated that tens of thousands may have been affected.
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-- Leska (, January 15, 1999.

"Welcome to Westworld, where nothing can go wrong. . .go wrong. . .go wrong. . .go wrong. . ."

-- Hardliner (, January 15, 1999.

For the record.

The generators failed at the Center. Not at Sea-Tac International.

The Controllers position on Y2K can be found at: safety/Faay2k.html


-- Martin Thompson (, January 15, 1999.

Chuckles Martin, your link leads to:

"We're terribly sorry, the file you requested was not available!"

Leska, ask me if I feel confident about flying. Sheesh. Doantcha just love it?


-- Diane J. Squire (, January 15, 1999.

Mmuuaahhaahahaha, bet this thread is making you feel real good, Diane ;-). What's worse, waiting at an airports 12 hours, circling airports with fuel running low, or attempting to drive over blizzarding passes? Of course most of the time flying is great convenient fun.

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-- Leska (, January 15, 1999.

On another note, from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association web-site pointed out by Martin:

Jan. 11 News Release


Air traffic controllers encounter more equipment problems

Outdated equipment and routine computer problems are plaguing the nation's air traffic control facilities. In the past several weeks, there have been several examples cited in national newspapers and local TV.

Earlier last month at Boston Center, a computer failure prevented air traffic controllers from realizing two passenger airliners were dangerously close to each other. If it were not for the pilot reporting the problem, the incident would have gone unnoticed. The FAA says the matter is under investigation.

In late November, it was not one but two radar outages at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. The outage reportedly lasted seven hours before everything was back to normal. Local NATCA President Kurt Granger said the backup system worked, but it was not adequate for the amount of air traffic at O'Hare.

On Dec. 12 computer outages caused delays at both Dulles and National Airports. These outages only lasted 35 minutes but caused several delays until the problem was restored. The problem was attributed to the host computer, which gives the critical radar positions of the aircraft.

-- Diane J. Squire (, January 15, 1999.

Don't forget the "ground freeze" procedure for traffic going to the east coast due to the weather. Bad enough that flights had to stay airborne because the ATC system had problems. But then there weren't enough gate slots for arriving flights, since eastbound flights hadn't been allowed to leave yet.

These two problems screwed-up flights all over the US and Canada. Only two failure points and we see interdependency ripples across the entire continent, just because of bad weather back east and power problems in Seattle.


-- Wildweasel (, January 15, 1999.

Thanks Diane,

I knew you would straighten me out. I am mostly a lurker but try to contribute when I can. Y2knewswire has the ATC link on their homepage.

As for the outage I have a hard time believing it was the generators. As I mentioned in the first post I worked in that center for a long time and experienced many switches to back up generators. If it wont switch it goes back to commercial power. It doesn't take that long to fix the problem. Those are the old computers installed in 80s.


-- Martin Thompson (, January 15, 1999.

Power Outage At Air Traffic Control Center Disrupts Flights Throughout Northwest, Northern California

SEATTLE (AP) -- A power outage that shut down radar and radio communications at a federal air traffic control center Friday disrupted air travel throughout the Northwest for more than two hours. More than 8,000 passengers were affected, airline spokesmen said. The outage at a Federal Aviation Administration regional center in suburban Auburn backed up flights in and out of Washington state airports and several in Oregon.

San Francisco International Airport was also affected.
"We lost radio and radar communication with air traffic" due to failure of a backup generator system, FAA spokesman Mitch Barker said. The outage itself, which began at about 2 p.m. PST and lasted 35 minutes, may have been triggered by a commercial power failure, Barker said.

The backup generator would automatically take over if the regular system failed. It apparently started up, then shut down for reasons being investigated by the FAA.

The Seattle Air Route Traffic Control Center controls air traffic for all of Washington, the western two-thirds of Oregon, the Idaho panhandle, small portions of Montana and Nevada and a portion of northern California, Barker said. It is one of 20 such centers nationwide.

Seattle-bound planes at distant airports were held up until the system was restored, and flights outbound from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport were put on hold as well, he said.

In Portland, 12 planes sat idling on a runway while four others circled near the airport for about 15 minutes, area television stations reported.

San Francisco flights bound for Portland, Seattle, Spokane, Anchorage and smaller Northwest airports stayed on the ground rather than take off with no assurance they would be able to land at their destinations.

Kim Dickie, duty manager at San Francisco International, said some planes there waited on the taxiway for as long as two hours. Other flights waited at boarding gates.

Spokesmen for Horizon Air, Alaska Airlines and Northwest Airlines reported more than 8,000 passengers affected.

Larry Snedeker, a Sacramento, Calif., businessman, said a snowstorm and mechanical problems delayed his departure from Anchorage earlier in the day, and his plane was forced to circle for about an hour over Vancouver, British Columbia, because Sea-Tac was shut down.

"The pilot told us there was bad news and good news," Snedeker told The Tacoma News Tribune. "The bad news was we were facing a longer delay getting into Seattle but the good news was we weren't going to miss our connection out of Seattle."

Bob Hennessey with the Port of Seattle, which operates Sea-Tac Airport, said, "There were about a dozen planes that were taxiing and not allowed to take off" from Seattle.

Controllers worked the planes that were in the air, increasing separation between airplanes and using backup communications at Sea-Tac Airport to speak with pilots, Barker said.

Sea-Tac departures resumed about 3 p.m., Barker said, adding, "it took about an hour and a half or so to get the backlog dealt with. So it was roughly 4 p.m.-4:30 p.m. when the system was back to normal."

Sea-Tac Airport spokesman Bob Parker said the outage occurred just as morning flights from the East Coast started coming in. Planes that were within 10 miles of the airport were allowed to land, because by then they were controlled by Sea-Tac radar and radio, which were not affected.

Parker said planes beyond that 10-mile radius circled until the problem was fixed.

Neither Barker nor Parker could confirm reports that some of those planes flew back to their cities of origin.
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-- Leska (, January 16, 1999.

I was in San Francisco recently during the power outage caused by a mouse taking a short cut on it's way home with a morsel of cheese.

I expect a moose got an antler caught in a relay up north whilst evading Elmer Fudd.

These systems are fragile at the best of times folks - do not believe otherwise.

y2k will be our worst nightmare personified...

Systems, systems that need systems - sung to the tune of "people that need people"... Andy the doombrooder :) Two digits. One mechanism. The smallest mi$take. "The conveniences and comforts of humanity in general will be linked up by one mechanism, which will produce comforts and conveniences beyond human imagination. But the smallest mistake will bring the whole mechanism to a certain collapse. In this way the end of the world will be brought about." Pir-o-Murshid Inayat Khan, 1922 (Sufi Prophet)

-- Andy (, January 16, 1999.

``It has a domino effect,'' said Sue Warner-Bean, a Horizon Airlines spokeswoman. ``If a flight is delayed on one route, then the next flight and the next flight and the next flight is delayed.''

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-- Leska (, January 16, 1999.

Since we're discussing air travel:

The weather is another consideration. I had friends who were stranded in Detroit in for days during the last snow storm. They couldn't plow the runways fast enough to keep them open, which created a chain- reaction effect in takeoff/landing schedules, which affected other airports, etc.

A major snowstorm combined with possible Y2k problems...hoo boy...I definitely wouldn't want to be on standby, have connected flights, etc. ;-)

-- Tim (, January 16, 1999.

Hey but Tim - think of the free flights and extra miles you could build up when you get bounced - I bet some people will book purposely to do just that (i know one or two who always book on holidays in order to "volunteer" to get off the plane) ;)

Andy the doombrooder :)

"We're doomed I tell ye, doomed!"

Private Frazer, Dad's Army, Walmington-On-Sea Home Guard, 1939 (Undertaker)

-- Andy (, January 16, 1999.

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