Another near miss for the FAA

What plagued Southwest Airlines in late December, experts say, was a computer and software system designed to handle 1990s-era scheduling.

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January 12, 2023 - 5:28 PM

A traveler looks at a flight information board at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport on Jan. 11, 2023, in Arlington, Virginia. (Alex Wong/Getty Images/TNS)

Perhaps not since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks have the spacious skies over America been as empty as they were Wednesday morning when the Federal Aviation Administration ordered all domestic flights grounded over a computer malfunction. The cause wasn’t immediately identified, but this is the second time in two weeks that major disruptions have occurred in the air transportation system related to aging computer systems that experts have long warned are in need of an upgrade.

What plagued Southwest Airlines in late December, experts say, was a computer and software system designed to handle 1990s-era scheduling. When it failed at the same time a major winter storm hit, Southwest suffered a meltdown that ruined the travel plans for millions of passengers and their families. 

Then, on Wednesday, more than 7,000 flights reportedly were delayed or canceled after an FAA flight-safety system completely shut down. That occurred around 1 a.m. St. Louis time and lasted until around 8 a.m. Passenger exasperation abounded at airports across the country.

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