Software Glitch Causes Airport Traffic Jams On U.S. East Coast

A technical computer-related difficulty at a Virginia air traffic control center caused major flight holdups on Saturday at many airports in the New York City and Washington areas, the Federal Aviation Administration reported.

According to the FAA, Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where departing flights delayed for up to two hours, was among the airports experiencing major delays.

An undetermined difficulty emerged in a computer program that manages flight preparations at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia, compelling the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily stop the departures for all flights at the D.C.-area’s three most important airports, the FAA reported.

Spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority, Kimberly Gibbs, said that flights from at least two Washington-area airports were taking off again in the early afternoon.

But the work stoppage had a domino effect, pushing back a number of flights around the country.

FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said that the difficulty also had an effect on planes that were in the sky at the time of the computer difficulty, with “high-altitude traffic” undergoing diversion around the center’s airspace.

A map on, the flight-tracking website, seemed to demonstrate the effect: a small number of planes were shown over wide regions of Virginia, Maryland, North Carolina and Delaware in the early hours of Saturday afternoon.

By 1:30 p.m., more flights were in the airspace, with planes departing Washington-area airports at last. But flights taking off from the airspace of Washington had to maintain an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The main airlines recognized the delays along the East Coast.

Delta Air Lines spokesperson Morgan Durrant said “We have to make last-minute adjustments to flight plans.”  Explaining further, Durrant said, “Flights in and out of the three major D.C.-area airports may be delayed.”

On twitter, American Airlines said, “There is an issue with air traffic control impacting all airlines’ east coast flights. Please plan accordingly.”

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