A botched software upgrade to a high-altitude radar facility used to track aeroplanes in the US caused hundreds of flights to be delayed or cancelled on the weekend.
A total of 492 flights were delayed and 476 cancelled because of the problem, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said in a post on Facebook on Sunday.
“The FAA is working with the airlines to resume normal air traffic operations after an automation problem yesterday led to delays and cancellations at airports in the Washington DC area,” it said as the problems first arose.
The FAA posted again later in the afternoon to confirm the potential cause of the problem as a software upgrade at a facility in Virginia.
“The FAA is focusing on a recent software upgrade at a high-altitude radar facility in Leesburg VA as the possible source of yesterday's automation problems,” it said.
"The upgrade was designed to provide additional tools for controllers. The FAA has disabled the new features while the agency and its system contractor complete their assessment.”
Commentators on Facebook were quick to question how a software upgrade to such a major system could go live with problems, suggesting that it may not have been tested in a non-live environment first.
The incident is just the latest in a series of IT-related mishaps to hit the airline industry over the past year or so. A problem with third-party airline industry iPad software in April caused American Airlines flights to be grounded and delayed.
Meanwhile, a server failure last December forced the closure of all London airspace for several hours, leading to a stinging rebuke for the UK air traffic control authorities from MPs.
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