Thursday, November 02, 2000

Delayed flights cleared

Outage caused backups

By James Pilcher
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — About 300 passengers stranded at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport late Tuesday by a power outage at a major air traffic control center in Indianapolis were all back on their way Wednesday.

        Delta Air Lines officials said because the three-hour outage occurred relatively early — between 4:04 and 7 p.m. — the airline was able to adjust to the “ground stop” required by the Federal Aviation Administration.

        The halt to operations caused an average delay of 84 to 87 minutes, with the longest delays lasting 165 minutes, the FAA said.

        One Delta official said the airline handed out 254 hotel vouchers, and didn't have to cancel any flights, saying “it could have been a lot worse.”

        Most travelers were rescheduled on connecting flights that left by 8 a.m.

        The FAA regional office in Atlanta said 37 flights were delayed at the Cincinnati airport Tuesday night, compared with 26 at Indianapolis, 10 at Chicago's Midway Airport and 38 at Washington, D.C.'s, two airports.

        President Clinton was affected by the delays as well. Air Force One's takeoff from Louisville for a flight to New York was delayed, and the power outage forced the president's plane to follow an ordinary commercial air route to New York, rather than fly, as it usually does, on a straight path.

        The radar difficulty prevented controllers from guiding other aircraft away from Air Force One had it flown directly.

        The problem was caused when power went out at the FAA Indianapolis air traffic control center, which monitors high-altitude traffic for parts of seven states, including southern Ohio, southern Indiana and most of Kentucky.

        Figures on how many planes were in the air at the time of the outage were not available, FAA spokesman Tony Molinaro, based in the agency's Chicago regional office, said. But he said that the planes were “handed off” to other such centers in Kansas City, Cleveland, Chicago, Washington, D.C., Memphis and Atlanta within two minutes.

        “It's a pretty standard procedure and we have backups in place,” said Mr. Molinaro, saying such power failures occur about once a year. “We still had communications to let the other centers know what was going on, and the controllers are trained to flip the switches immediately.”


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