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FAA Computer Glitch Causes Widespread Airline Delays

Soulskill posted more than 4 years ago | from the reports-confirm-toothpaste-was-not-involved dept.

Bug 133

seven of five writes with this excerpt from an Associated Press report: "A problem with the FAA system that collects airlines' flight plans caused widespread flight cancellations and delays nationwide Thursday. It was the second time in 15 months that a glitch in the flight plan system caused delays. The FAA said in a statement that it is having a problem processing flight plan information. 'We are investigating the cause of the problem,' the agency said. 'We are processing flight plans manually and expect some delays. We have radar coverage and communications with planes.'"

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133 comments

First Trout (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157202)

I am a fish

Yep... (1)

TrisexualPuppy (976893) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157216)

I'm here in a terminal at ATL waiting for a second flight. Been sitting here for four hours now and no hope is in sight according to the people at the counter and overhead announcements. Will keep "y'all" updated.

Re:Yep... (3, Informative)

ArhcAngel (247594) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157628)

I just read a post on Facebook by an Air traffic controller I know. They had to e-mail or fax all icao [wikipedia.org] flight plans to the FAA [wikipedia.org] . The FAA manually typed in every flight plan for every flight in the country.

Re:Yep... (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158868)

You and dtmos (see post further down in this thread) should get together for a beer. You're both stuck in Atlanta, and it's after noon. :)

Slashdotters meeting in person? Whoda thunk it. LOL.

Here I sit... (2, Interesting)

dtmos (447842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157226)

...stuck in Atlanta...

Re:Here I sit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157694)

...came to fly, but here comes Santa!

Re:Here I sit... (3, Funny)

gEvil (beta) (945888) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158050)

...stuck in Atlanta...

It could be worse. You could be stuck in Lodi (again).

Re:Here I sit... (2, Funny)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158840)

Sorry to hear that. But, as the old saying goes, "it's better to be DOWN HERE desperately wishing you were UP THERE, than UP THERE desperately wishing you were DOWN HERE."

Re:Here I sit... (1)

fprintf (82740) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159304)

No it is supposed to go:

"Here I sit, broken hearted, came to s**t and only farted."

Re:Here I sit... (1)

icebrain (944107) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160310)

Some come here to shit and stink
and pick crabs off their balls;
I come here to sit and think
and write stuff on the walls

Re:Here I sit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30159534)

... with you.

Re:Here I sit... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30162162)

...stuck in Atlanta...

You betcha!

re problem (1)

freddieb (537771) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157236)

Sounds funny to me. Packet switch due to a database mismatch?

Re:re problem (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30158356)

Sounds funny to me. Packet switch due to a database mismatch?

Gremlins.

What OS? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157282)

"I thought of that."

Hmm could it be a windows problem? (0, Flamebait)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157308)

If I remember correctly they built this thing on a windows platform with MSSQL as the back end database. I wonder how long it will take for them to dump it and put in a real OS.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157550)

Link to deployment announcement about "modernization" of airspace network.

http://www.stratus.com/news/2005/20050314a.htm [stratus.com]

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (0, Troll)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157642)

so this deployment presumably has been done, or is to be done? It looks like they're not doing a whole lot of improvement as I see:

The FAA is implementing the Stratus servers, which use Intel Xeon 2.8 MHz large cache MP processors and support the Microsoft Windows operating system, at control centers in Atlanta and Salt Lake City.

I don't suppose today's glitch is a lesson in migrating to linux servers?

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30160812)

Given that the problem, if any, was as likely to be a result of human error in the implementation as the design of whatever was being implemented, then yeah it's probably a transferable lesson.

What viability Linux would have in the role...I honestly don't know, but really, if I were the government, I wouldn't be working from Linux or any other commercial to put up my flight route systems. They have enough money to work from something they want.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (1)

poetmatt (793785) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161360)

apparently people didn't understand the difference between the question mark at the end of my sentence and a statement, since people decided to mark it a troll. Do people not know what a question mark means? I was hoping someone would reply with actual informative info.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (1)

pwfffff (1517213) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161684)

Do you know what 'troll' means? I await you informing me of your informative information, informant.

Info.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30163030)

or you could do a little research yourself:
http://online.wsj.com/article/SB125863837097855555.html?mod=rss_Today's_Most_Popular
"It started when a single circuit board in a piece of networking equipment at a computer center in Salt Lake City failed, the FAA said in a statement"

Must be those new Windows 7 circuit boards.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? - of course! (3, Informative)

Chibi Merrow (226057) | more than 4 years ago | (#30164214)

Well, I work w/ the FAA right now, and they're becoming relatively platform agnostic actually. ERAM [wikipedia.org] , for instance, was written by Lockheed Martin to run on top of some flavor of IBM UNIX or Linux (forget which). In the old days, everything ran on custom, purpose-built hardware and OSes, but that really turned out to be a maintenance nightmare. Using COTS Hardware/Software means upgrading systems or providing new capabilities can be pretty easy.

I think ASDE-X [wikipedia.org] runs on top of some sort of POSIX type OS as well... I know its data stream is standard UDP over Ethernet type stuff.

Re:Hmm could it be a windows problem? (2, Insightful)

Jumpin' Jon (731892) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158256)

I don't think MSSQL runs on any other OS??

problems? (1)

archangel9 (1499897) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157312)

only the second glitch in fifteen months? One would assume that's far better than most commercially written software.

Re:problems? (2, Interesting)

Tellarin (444097) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157376)

By "glitch" they mean "totally offline delaying and canceling flights".

I'm pretty sure they had lots of other bugs and "regular glitches" in this time.

On the other hand, I'm also pretty sure that this kind of software does indeed go through a much better development and verification process than most commercial software around.

Re:problems? (1)

geekoid (135745) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157730)

No, by glitch they mean glitch. "totally offline delaying and canceling flights" is the result the glitch.

  "On the other hand, I'm also pretty sure that this kind of software does indeed go through a much better development and verification process than most commercial software around."
the scheduling software? probably not. It was done out of house for contract by people who don't give a damn the moment the software releases.

Re:problems? (0, Troll)

hesaigo999ca (786966) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157574)

Not if it causes 2 plains to crash together in mid flight and kill 487 people, it's not.
Unless you want to be 1 amongst the 487!
Software for this industry or the car or even medical has no room for glitches....
when your heart monitor glitches out and sends a shock to your heart triggering a heart attack, I would like to hear you say, it was acceptable seeing as it didn't have AS many bugs as let's say windows.

Thanks to M$ and the like, we have grown accustomed to accepting certain levels of errors in software,
while I would like to be able to say I accept no bugs in my software, what about you?

Re:problems? (2, Insightful)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157806)

I don't know a whole lot about in-flight software, but I do know the FAA itself heavily regulates it. There are different "levels" of flight software and hardware, with varying degrees of documentation and testing required for each. In-flight navigation software is obviously the most critical, and the level of documentation and testing they do for that is insane. Back when I was working on my capstone project in college, I got to see a little bit of how Honeywell tests their displays, and it is orders of magnitude more thorough than what I've seen in corporate software wherein money actually changes hands. They even had to create their own proprietary operation system in order to pass muster with the FAA.

I'm not sure about where the FAA's flight plan software falls in, but I'm guessing that since it's not safety critical, and only an operational risk, it probably is fairly solid, but obviously not as solid as the safety-critical software.

I do think it's too soon to blame this on MS, though. We don't even know whether this was caused by a third party vendor, which vendors they use for the particular piece where the error occurred, or if this is even anybody else's fault but their own. I wouldn't be surprised if someone gets fired over this, though.

Re:problems? (1)

Osiris Ani (230116) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158504)

I'm not sure about where the FAA's flight plan software falls in, but I'm guessing that since it's not safety critical, and only an operational risk...

Considering that flight plans exist to prevent planes from crashing into one another, I'd lump them into your category of "safety critical."

Re:problems? (4, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158800)

Considering that this did not affect the development of flight plans, only delayed them, I'd rip this back out of the category of "safety critical".

Online development of flight plans is much faster than offline. But that's precisely what makes the offline ones safe - as you delay the development of flight plans you also reduce the number of planes being cleared for takeoff at the same time. Once the flight planning software goes back online, you can start granting flight plans quickly again and get traffic volumes back to normal.

And it's a bit of a stretch to assume a risk of a collision even in the complete absence of flight planning. ATC, Radar, airplane internal collision avoidance, and pilot eyeballs are all unaffected by this. The only thing this could possibly do is put two planes in the vicinity of each other, but even that is unlikely as the sky isn't "the wild west" - it's carved up into clearly-defined highways with speed limits and defined routes which are all used in flight planning. So if you have two planes in the vicinity of each other, they are going in the same direction at roughly the same speed, so there's TONS of time to react.

And the first precaution, as we've seen here, is to reduce the number of clearances. Arguably, this makes the actual flying safer, since there are fewer planes up there for ATC to have to track and communicate with.

Re:problems? (2, Informative)

cyberprophet (1411663) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159118)

Flight plans are for scheduling and routing purposes only. Seperation is maintained by Air Traffic Controlers using surveilance and secondary radar systems connected to automation systems, none of which run M$ Windows I might add.

Re:problems? (1)

zippthorne (748122) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160066)

And some of which still runs on cryo-cooled Univac machines...

Nice try. Mod parent down. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30160328)

And some of which still runs on cryo-cooled Univac machines...

Any fool knows that Univac could not run in cryogenic conditions as the difference in plate and cathode temperatures would be zero or close to zero, and the filament temperature itself is not sufficient to launch electrons, thereby destroying any chance of thermionic emission. Go back to high school.

Re:problems? (1)

Fulcrum of Evil (560260) | more than 4 years ago | (#30162982)

I'm not sure about where the FAA's flight plan software falls in, but I'm guessing that since it's not safety critical, and only an operational risk...

Considering that flight plans exist to prevent planes from crashing into one another, I'd lump them into your category of "safety critical."

Last I looked, this was mainly an issue near airports - airspace is really huge, and I don't see flight corridors as hugely risky.

Re:problems? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157934)

Well, if they are great plains it could be lots more people. I'm sure that there are a few million people in the great plains.

But if you meant the flying tubes in the sky planes, it's not as if atc is down, just filing the flight plans.

Re:problems? (4, Informative)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158624)

Sorry, this is flight planning/scheduling software. This is the system by which airliners are told what route they are to take when they finally get their flight clearance.

The primary reason this has not received "oh my god the sky is falling" priority is because, well, it isn't. Nor are shiny metal tubes blasting through the sky at 500 miles an hour going to smash into each other because of this. People will be inconvenienced and that's regrettable and needs to be fixed, but this is not a safety issue.

  - Radar control systems: Unaffected.
  - Air Traffic control: Unaffected.
  - Communications: Unaffected.
  - Landings: Unaffected.
  - Any flights already in progress: Unaffected.
  - Ground control: Unaffected.
  - Passenger Safety: Unaffected.

This only delays the granting of flight clearance. The planes that are inconvenienced by this are safely on the ground, and the effect is that they stay on the ground longer than they should. Again, this is regrettable, but not fatal. There is no plausible scenario that would lead from this to a failure of traffic control. In fact, with fewer planes in the sky, you could argue that flying is actually safer (for those people who are lucky enough to have gotten clearance, of course!).

In the medical field, this would be a failure of the system that the receptionist uses to schedule your next appointment. In the automotive analogy, this would be a failure of your garage door opener. In the heart monitor analogy, there isn't even an analogy because heart monitors don't have (as far as I know) any non-critical systems.

Re:problems? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160332)

Not receiving clearance means flight delays and flight cancellations. That translates to lost revenue to the airlines; inconvenience and possibly lost wages to the traveller; and inconvenience and possible lost revenue to to the travellers' employers. It is not a trivial matter as the losses could add up to millions of dollars per hour. Suer, no-one will die beczause of it but many will lose money.

To use one of your analogies; your garage door does not open, you are late for a sales meeting and lose a $1M contract. Not perfect but a cancelled flight may delay someone for a day.

Re:problems? (1)

JumpDrive (1437895) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160950)

Well I think you implicitly put your finger on part of the issue.
1) Money
2) Management
If nobody see the need for spending a certain amount of money for a system, then you may get a system which fails on occasions.
If once every 15 months is acceptable, then no need for more money.
But if you want a more robust system, then more money may need to be spent.
Which would mean that companies would need to be giving the FAA more money. So suing the FAA would defeat the purpose of what they are trying to achieve.
Now it may mean that the system is fine, in which case the problem may be with better support or more talented support. Which once again comes back to probably needing more money.
The problem may be Management, in which case you must realize it is a government bureaucracy. Good luck, dealing with that. But it actually comes back to Airlines needing to use their lobbyist to work with the government to get a better system in place.
Suing, would be a short term solution ( if it is even possible).


Hello US, welcome to the third world.

Re:problems? (1)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161178)

I was responding to a post that implied that this failure could cause a midair collision. It could not. I didn't address the possible economic impact of the failure because that wasn't the topic I was responding to.

But, since you brought it up, what would be the economic impact of fixing it so it could never, ever fail under any circumstances? Moreover, is that even possible?

Keep in mind that flight safety stuff is standalone. Each zone has their own RADAR, their own control systems, and is a self-contained entity. Most of the handoff is (or can be) done from controller-to-pilot. This is by design, both for safety and efficiency. There's no compelling reason to integrate the systems, and it's not worth the added complexity and risk of failure.

Safety gear needs to tell you where planes are, give you warnings if two planes start converging on course, and give you ways to communicate those issues to an airplane. Once an airplane flies outside your zone of control, it's not your problem any more, so your system doesn't even need to be aware of those aircraft.

Flight planning is, by its nature, integrated across the country. Airway allocation needs to be done as a coordinated national function, not a series of zones. Flight Planning is a separate entity within the FAA. They send their data to the individual controllers, but they don't really need to. Flight Planning exists to reduce or eliminate congestion (clumps of aircraft close together) so the controllers have an easier time managing the flow of traffic (and therefore you can have more planes in the air at a time).

The hardware and software involved in planning are far more integrated and therefore complex. By its nature the system is subject to additional points of failure as a result.

Then you add funding and priorities to it, and you accept that an occasional failure of the planning system isn't going to end up with anyone dead. So you do your best, but accept that you'll probably have a failure from time to time because making the system completely reliable means spending probably more money than is lost by everyone delayed.

So, in order to avoid the chance of missing your $1M meeting, how much additional would you like added to each airline ticket everyone buys every day? Because $50 probably isn't going to even start covering it, and if you make everyone pay $50 on each and every airline ticket to reduce the chances of a once-in-a-year flight delay, it'll never get passed. This isn't even a leading cause of delays.

There are too many other delays for too many other reasons for this one to reach that level of spending priority. Again, even if making the system completely immune to failure is possible.

Damn Excel (3, Funny)

headhot (137860) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157320)

Some one messed up their $2,000,000 excel macro that list morning.

Honest! (5, Funny)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157332)

I only changed one little line of code! It wasn't even important enough to test!

Re:Honest! (2, Interesting)

Anon-Admin (443764) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157388)

HAHAH, around my work you could add "or Document" to the end of that statement. I cant count the number of times people have changed things with no documentation and they did not consider it important.

Re:Honest! (1)

sycodon (149926) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157576)

Document? I don't understand. What is "Document"?

Re:Honest! (1)

EchaniDrgn (1039374) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158640)

It's an artifact type in the CM system. Don't feel bad, we don't have any of those around here either.

Re:Honest! (1)

31415926535897 (702314) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160416)

I think it's a Microsoft product. That's why not many around here use it.

Re:Honest! (1)

Monkeedude1212 (1560403) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157686)

No you see the problem was that someone tried to comment out a comment. However, their skewed vision on how comments work, and by some MIRACLE of programming and compilation, All the code ended up commented and the comment was compiled instead.

Re:Honest! (1)

kb1ikn (866009) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157722)

It works fine on my computer.

I only changed one little line of code! It wasn't even important enough to test!

what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157344)

The FAA and their omnipotent employees hate anything new/improved. I worked for a very large FAA contractor developing a modern system. We tried to use Solaris/C++ but they sandbagged it because we could not test each and every line of code in the OS and that even C++ stripped to essentially C may have hidden problems. They are comfortable running systems on ancient mainframes running ULTRA.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (4, Insightful)

eln (21727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157640)

Given that the FAA is responsible for the lives of thousands of people who travel by air every day, not to mention cargo planes which represent billions of dollars in economic activity, I'd be extremely alarmed if they were constantly switching to the latest and greatest technology without testing each and every line of code in the entire software stack, up to and including the bare metal. Change is slow in organizations like that because it has to be. Improper testing can easily lead to lost lives, or at the very least huge delays like these ones that can cost millions in lost productivity.

So when will they upgrade? (1)

Trip6 (1184883) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158744)

We've heard about the antiquated ATC system for over a decade. Does anybody on the inside know if, and when they'll upgrade?

Re:So when will they upgrade? (1)

horatio (127595) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161370)

ADS-B, the next generation of ATC tracking/radar systems was brought online recently over Louisville, KY [faa.gov] and has been in testing in several other areas as well.

They are also phasing in more GPS approaches (nav systems specifically designed for landing) and phasing out the NDBs (non-directional beacon) and taking failing VORs out of service that are often used at fields which have (ILS) instrument approach runways.

That said, it is a very slow process. If your car's speedo goes out, who cares. If the airspeed indicator in your plane fails, you could be in deep shit. (GPS only measures your speed across the ground, not your airspeed - which includes factors for wind. Too slow and you stall, crash. Too fast you rip the wings off, crash.) Upgrading the avionics in even the most inexpensive aircraft is not cheap.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

DeadCatX2 (950953) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159002)

This brings up the greater question of how old must a technology be before it is considered mature enough for purposes as mission-critical as air planes. 5 years? 10 years? 20?

I think that reasonably, you ought to be able to trust technology that's been around for a decade.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

jklovanc (1603149) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160380)

Not necessarily, if the technology was speced to handle 100,00 flights per day and they are trying to pump 200,00 flights per day through it, the software may not be able to handle it no matter how old it is.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30160896)

As this story proves: age is an indicator at best, the question is how many transactions were completed without error and how much damage does/would an error cause.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30161164)

I had to deal with DO178A from the RTCA when we tried to develop the system I mentioned at the start of this thread. That'd be 5% design/code and 95% test.

No engineer on the project liked it. We all bailed ASAP when that requirement was put on us.

BTW: DO178A is for avionics flying around in the aluminum tube. But they put that requirement on the GROUND system we were trying to develop.

BTW part deaux: CPDLC by Computer Sciences Corporation.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

fbjon (692006) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158318)

C++ stripped to essentially C may have hidden problems

That sounds about right, yeah.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (2, Insightful)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158802)

They are comfortable running systems on ancient mainframes running ULTRA.

I would be comfortable doing the same thing.
Why do people shit on mainframes? They may cost a lot of money and time, but they're orders of magnitude more dependable than any other server solution that exists.

Yes, that includes the "cloud".

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

Nerdfest (867930) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160052)

A huge part of their reliability is due to restistance to, and lack of change. Almost every problem that is encountered is due to a programming error. The same hardware availability can be obtained on a 'cloud' using virtual machines, redundancy, automatic fallover, etc, many of the same technologies the mainframes use, with a huge performance increase and cost savings.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161700)

Uh, that's a very small part of the reliability.

The hardware reliability comes from having fault-tolerant, hot-swappable, redundant, well-tested hardware. The "cloud" hopes to achieve this, yet doesn't.

The software reliability comes from having fault-tolerant, well-designed, well-tested software. This takes time, sure, but it can just as easily be done with forward-thinking to allow for growth and change.

The problem is not mainframes, mainframe programmers, or PHBs resistant to change. The problem is people rushing the newest shiny, do-nothing feature, people willing to sacrifice reliability and forgo proper design and testing, vendors end-of-lifing shit for no reason other than planned obsolescence, and the general inability of people to plan ahead - opting instead to throw money at the problem later.

Hell, because of this mentality we don't even have phones that work right anymore.

Re:what do you expect from 70's technology ?? (1)

happy_place (632005) | more than 4 years ago | (#30161290)

The wallstreet journal article mentions the issue was with a new system, specifically noting that it was not related to their antiquated hardware that has historically been the cause of failures in the past. I think it's naive to suggest that old hardware or coding in C++ (over C, as if C's a completely dead language... they both have their places in complex engineering tasks) will eliminate failures in the system, because in this case it was newer hardware, which had a cascading effect, implying involvement of networked databases, etc...

Resolved... (2, Informative)

dtmos (447842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157414)

...according to the Wall Street Journal. [wsj.com] Wonder if they'll give me a lift home?

Resolved? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157684)

Some quotes:
"The Web site, which captures FAA flight data, indicated that departures from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport were delayed by 20 to 60 minutes. But departures scheduled for later in the day were generally showing to be on time."

That doesn't mean that they will actually depart on time... it just means that they're currently telling people that they'll be on time.

"Departures from John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York were indicated running at more than an hour behind schedule for a handful of flights, according to FlightStats.com. But this afternoon, they show on time. Philadelphia International Airport showed delays of 15 to 30 minutes on some flights scheduled to depart soon, but departures scheduled for later also looked to be on time."

Saying that they'll be on time is not the same as actually being on time.

"American Airlines, the second-largest U.S. airline by traffic behind Delta Air Lines and unit of AMR Corp., said the FAA has indicated it has fixed or is close to fixing the main automated flight-plan system"

Which? Fixed? or "close" to being flxed?

Re:Resolved? (1)

dtmos (447842) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157882)

All true, but note line 1 of TFA:

A computer glitch that caused flight cancellations and delays across the U.S. Thursday has been resolved, the Federal Aviation Administration said. [emphasis added.]

Re:Resolved? (2, Insightful)

natehoy (1608657) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159066)

Even if it's fixed, there will still be delays for a while. There are probably tons of flights that are still awaiting clearance and the requests are being dealt with as quickly as safely possible. Meanwhile, a normal load of requests is still coming in, and those go into queue as well.

Trouble with things like flight planning is that they are, well, planning. If they go down, the manual process can't keep up with the load, and a queue develops. Once the system comes back up, it's gotta munge through the queue and get all the planes that have been waiting for clearance in the air.

And the skies can only handle so much traffic - you can't have infinite numbers of planes in the sky at once. So there will be a period where takeoffs will be done pretty close together, up to the point where the flying lanes are at max safe capacity. Max safe capacity is higher than normal capacity, but it'll still take a while to get all those delayed flights going, and the flights that are just now at this moment getting ready to go will be delayed as a result.

The net result of this is the same as a construction zone on a highway - you have a large stretch of highway with traffic backed up in it (planes waiting to take off) followed by a stretch of highway that almost empty. If you pull the barriers, it will still take a while for the empty stretch of highway to fill up with cars again, and the cars at the back of the line still have a long wait ahead before they can get up to speed.

And ./ just noticed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157612)

*YAWN* they are almost out of the problem. Glad that ./ finally noticed..

Did it also pass unobserved that the mobile phone network of one operator (Vodafone) of an entire land (the Netherlands) went totally K.O. for about 16 hours due to a single gateway failure, leaving several millions users and businesses and even some public transport stuck in the cold?

Re:And ./ just noticed? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30157822)

Yeah I hate ./ They're so behind the times. That's why I come to /. to read my news.... so much better than ./

Re:And ./ just noticed? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158844)

I bet their landlines were still working.

obviously (1)

stillpixel (1575443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157638)

they must have been transitioning over to Windows 7 this morning.. you know that can take days depending on what your current system is.

Re:obviously (1)

confused one (671304) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157814)

This is the government. They transitioned from Windows 2000 to XP only last year.

Re:obviously (1)

vegiVamp (518171) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158926)

So what you're saying is that this was the reboot halfway the upgrade process ?

Re:obviously (1)

stillpixel (1575443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159330)

Don't you see? The FAA was chosen as the Windows 7 upgrade test bed for the U.S. Govt Then if it doesn't work and people die, they can just blame Microsoft. Everyone hates them anyway right???

Maybe it's like the internet... (1)

ShatteredArm (1123533) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157872)

...and Iran was publishing bad flight plans. You know, to block undesirable traffic.

Already fixed before it even got posted on /. (2, Informative)

DigitalReverend (901909) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157892)

Hey Honkies... (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30158440)

...resident black man here.

Check this shit out; ever wonder what it is that black people want? You're probably thinking, "To fuck a white woman, of course." And, naturally, that's correct and goes without saying, but, that's not really the true pinnacle of black achievement.

To absolutely and utterly fulfill the vision of black excellence requires the acquirement of two artifacts. For your vicarious pleasure, palefaces, I now present them to you.

1) A late model Cadillac. Preferably DeVille or DTS.

2) A handicap sign to hang from the rear view mirror.

And there you have it, chalky. Now you know.

To quote some technology middle manager (3, Funny)

dkleinsc (563838) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157898)

"That's it, you're all grounded!"

Glitch is now fixed (2, Funny)

smooth wombat (796938) | more than 4 years ago | (#30157986)

According to this article [marketwatch.com] , the glitch is no longer.

Apparently they fixed the glitch so the problem worked itself out naturally.

Re:Glitch is now fixed (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30158560)

Yeah, but I stopped getting my paycheck.

Foot TCP (2, Insightful)

cosm (1072588) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158168)

FTA: "The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

We all know how large out of touch behemoths sometimes structure their IT. By 'packet switch' they mean 'guy who couriers hardcopy flight plans' and by 'database mistmatch' they mean their dewey-decimal-system was mixed-up by some jokesters.

Honest... (4, Funny)

flogger (524072) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158258)

That bug just flew in under the radar...

**ducks**

glitch in Obama's healthcare con (0, Troll)

czarangelus (805501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30158322)

Glitch in Central led to Tuttle^w Buttle being injected with Toradol, which resulted in severe gastrointestinal hemorage ultimately leading to death due to his warfarin medication.

Hooray for more Imperial competence!

Uh-oh! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30158386)

Seems they rebooted using that recycled AOL floppy diskette again.

bullshit detector on red alert! (-1, Redundant)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30159410)

from TFA:

> The FAA said at that time the source of the computer software malfunction was a "packet switch" that "failed due to a database mismatch."

hate it when that happens.

Re:bullshit detector on red alert! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30160224)

Secure from bullshit mode; this is actually plausible:

Somebody plugs in a switch without bothering to register the MAC address in DHCP. In this brave new world of hyper-controlled IT, we don't give out IP addresses to unknown MAC addresses like we used to. Unable to configure switch, default settings are somehow inadequate for all of the equipment behind it.

Sounds like a network admin baffled management with BS to hide his error. Then management passes along the BS verbatim, not knowing that the "database" was just a bunch of DHCP leases!

(plUs one Informative) (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30159706)

compRehensive here, but what is

Just another great goverment run program... (3, Interesting)

round4 (1177033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30159996)

Yea, these are the guys (the feds) I want building cars, taking over health care...thanks god they are not building the planes. I'm just trying to think one government run organization that works as well as any private one. Any idea?

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (-1, Flamebait)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30160338)

Have to post as an anonymous coward on this, but the media's source has given them inaccurate information. The problem was not that the system that processes flight plans stopped working, but, that the network (which is provided by a private company contracted with the FAA) went into cardiac arrest due to the failure of a single router. This is reprehensible considering that IP networks were designed from day one to continue working even if portions of the network go down. So, you can preach your 'government can't get anything right' mantra all you want, but in this instance, the problem was that the network has been contracted out. It's been my experience that this almost never saves money or results in higher quality. You should write your congressmen and senators and ask them why this vital part of the country's communications infrastructure has been entrusted to a contractor when clearly they don't know what they are doing.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30162180)

Considering how many companies have failed in the past 200 years, how the financial industry was central to our current economic crisis, and how we're still living under the same government we had 200 years ago, I'd say your faith in the private sector is severely misplaced.

But don't let that stop you.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (1)

ak3ldama (554026) | more than 4 years ago | (#30163866)

Considering how many companies have failed in the past 200 years, how the financial industry was central to our current economic crisis, and how we're still living under the same government we had 200 years ago, I'd say your faith in the private sector is severely misplaced.
But don't let that stop you.

I had a longer comment prepared, but I am going to shorten it. The government's failures would be as easily producible as failures of industry. Even worse is that government departments are usually not created until a real need is noticed - which should increase their chance of success. Also, your example of the financial industry is a joke, and not relevant to any discussion of a free market. Lastly the proposition that we are under the same government we were under 200 years ago is only acceptable upon a cursory glance. I would love to go into greater detail but I refuse to against anonymous cowards.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (3, Insightful)

DerekLyons (302214) | more than 4 years ago | (#30162496)

Yea, these are the guys (the feds) I want building cars, taking over health care...thanks god they are not building the planes. I'm just trying to think one government run organization that works as well as any private one. Any idea?

Under their control, 87,000 flights a day cross the skies of the US. Despite incredible crowding at and in the airspace surrounding a large number of airports, collisions are one-in-billions events. The vast majority depart and arrive without undue delay. (And anyone expecting no delay in such a dynamic system with so many variable is smoking some good stuff.)
 
In this incident, a problem was detected, backup procedures implemented, the problem was fixed, and full functionality was restored - all in a matter of hours without halting the system.
 
I'd be the first to admit that there are a lot of badly broken government programs - but in this case, you're just blowing smoke.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30162682)

I'm just trying to think one government run organization that works as well as any private one. Any idea?

Hmm I dunno, healthcare maybe? Compare member satisfaction with Medicare to any coverage-denying, drop-you-as-soon-as-you're-ill private insurer...

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30162864)

Yea, these are the guys (the feds) I want building cars, taking over health care...thanks god they are not building the planes. I'm just trying to think one government run organization that works as well as any private one. Any idea?

This morning I was woken by my alarm clock powered by electricity generated by the public power monopoly regulated by the US Dept of Energy. I then took a shower in the clean water provided by the municipal water utility. After that, I turned on the TV to one of the FCC regulated channels to see what the national weather service of the national oceanographic and atmospheric administration determined the weather was going to be like using satellites designed, built and launched by the national aeronautics and space administration. I watched this while eating my breakfast of US Dept. of Agriculture inspected food and taking the drugs which have been determined as safe by the food and drug administration.

At the appropriate time as regulated by the US congress and kept accurate by the national institute of standards and technology and the US naval observatory, I get into my national highway traffic safety administration approved automobile and set out to work on roads built by the local, state and federal departments of transportation, possibly stopping to purchase additional fuel of a quality determined by the environmental protection agency, using legal tender issued by the federal reserve bank. On the way out the door, I deposit any mail I have to be sent out via the US postal service and drop the kids off at the public school.

After work, I drive my NHTSA car back home on the DOT roads, to a house which has not burned down in my absence because of the state and local building codes and the fire marshal's inspection, and which has not been plundered of all it's valuables thanks to the local police department.

I then log onto the internet which was developed by the defense advanced research projects administration and post on freerepublic.com and fox news forums about how SOCIALISM in medicine is BAD because the government can't do anything right.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (1)

MaWeiTao (908546) | more than 4 years ago | (#30163284)

I have a lot of problems with government and many departments within that bureaucracy, but the FAA is not one of them. It's pretty amazing what they do and there probably aren't many other entities out there that could do what they do.

Re:Just another great goverment run program... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30164156)

Actually you have the question backwards is there any private organization that I trust or that works as well even the worst government run organiztions

I'm this many. (1)

StikyPad (445176) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160522)

It was the second time in 15 months that a glitch in the flight plan system caused delays.

Thanks for the arbitrary use of months. Is it a baby, or were you working from fortnights and thought you might as well round to the nearest lunar cycle and then convert to Gregorian? Do you also append "and a half" to your age, as appropriate?

Yeah, right. A cynic's view. (2, Interesting)

Bob_Who (926234) | more than 4 years ago | (#30160856)

Its true the flights are delayed. That's as much of the truth we get from this complex system of terribly overworked government and airline employees, national security, information systems, politics, FAA, corporate scum, secret clearance computer firms with bizarre contracts, and the 24/7 news spew with commercial airline as clients. They start by overbooking flights, while trying to account for each seat for security, and the bean counters, vips, and bad weather. To top it off information systems have to share some data, but not other data, while the people working have to comply with all sorts of rigid protocols and odd project management that controls everything except their overtime. I dunno, I have no reason to believe that any news we get about this type of event is necessarily true. It doesn't need to be. Its just the spin that reporters have to make in the absence of any real statement for the record. If they told you the truth you'd stop giving them your money. God forbid airlines make customers a top priority. Ha! Even if they were telling the truth, it would be a fluke, but just as vague and pointless. OK. We know the truth. Its aliens from Orion preparing for 2012. And they work for Delta.

mod do3n (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30161560)

the 'comm0nIty' [goat.cx]

the best layover (1)

nimbius (983462) | more than 4 years ago | (#30162060)

ive had was a 7 hour standby at a connecting airport that was 45 minutes away from my house, only to be flown back to my original airport and directly flown to houston. downsides: i ate so much au bon pain at the airport i had these weird pastry farts the entire flight, and so much coffee i thought i was going to barf before we took off.
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