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CNN Today

Complications from Computer Foul-Up Continues to be Felt in East Coast Airports

Aired January 6, 2000 - 2:09 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: A computer foul-up threw a monkey wrench into travel plans on the East Coast, today. Flights were snarled from Boston to Raleigh-Durham.

CNN's Carl Rochelle is watching things in Washington.

Hello, Carl.

CARL ROCHELLE, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hello, Natalie.

Well, things are getting back to normal now, but that's little help for the people who showed up at the airport, this morning, at 6:15. They had a problem beginning with the computer system, and here's what it was.

It was a peripheral system, that they call it, that feeds information into the mainframe of the computer, information about the flights en route and where they go in the air. That was overloading the main computer, and they had to shut it down and put in a backup system. That caused delays, the FAA said up to 45 minutes, but some travelers were frustrated by waiting even longer than that in line as planes backed up from airports in Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Washington and all the way down to Raleigh-Durham.

Now, the computer glitch was worked out about 9:49, this morning, and they tried to get planes moving back in the system as normal. But this has a sort of a halo effect, because not only the airplanes in those airports but planes that were flying into the airports from outside of the area. Planes coming up from the south trying to get into Washington, Philadelphia or New York had to wait because they couldn't get in. At one time, in those airports in the affected area, there was what they called a ground stop; nobody was allowed to move until they could sort out the situation and get the airplanes moving again.

If you were flying west, you could do that, because it wasn't the airports themselves that were closed or grounded, it was the en route traffic system going in that north-south Boston-Washington corridor, known as the Bo-Wash Corridor, one of the most highly-, heavily- traveled corridors of air traffic in this entire country. So, the airplanes going west could get out. If you were going north from Boston, you could get out, but anywhere in that north-south route and on further south there was a backup. As I said, they are sorting it out now, but it takes a while. It's very much like an accident on the freeway where one car, no matter how minor the accident, backs traffic up for hours, and you can go through a whole rush hour with traffic backed up because of one little accident, and that's exactly what has happened with this.

I'm Carl Rochelle, CNN, reporting live from Washington.

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