Memory issue disrupts FAA air traffic control system

Data in memory was not flushed when air traffic controllers deleted it

A memory problem in the traffic management system of the Federal Aviation Administration resulted in the disruption of flights on the U.S. East Coast on Saturday, according to the agency.

The FAA said Monday that data was not removed from the flight control system even after air traffic controllers deleted it, until the storage limit was filled, putting demands on the processing power required for the smooth functioning of the overall En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) system.

On Sunday, FAA said a recent software upgrade to a high-altitude radar facility at Leesburg, Virginia had possibly led to the disruption, but did not provide details. It maintains that ERAM has had a greater than 99.99 percent availability rate since it was installed nationwide earlier this year.

The system replaced a 40-year-old En Route Host computer and backup system used at 20 FAA Air Route Traffic Control Centers across the nation.

A new function in the latest ERAM software upgrade lets controllers set up customized windows of frequently referenced data. The data was to be completely removed from the system as controllers deleted it, which didn't happen.

FAA temporarily suspended the use of the function and is working with contractor, Lockheed Martin, to find a permanent solution. The contractor is also investigating why the problem was not identified during the testing of the system.

The agency said Sunday that an automation problem had led to delays and cancellations at airports in the Washington, D.C., area on Saturday, with preliminary information indicating 492 delays and 476 cancellations.

Traffic at three major airports in the area dropped to between 70 and 88 percent of normal average traffic levels on Saturdays, after controllers fell back on backup systems and procedures.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

John Ribeiro

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles


GGG Evaluation Team

Kathy Cassidy


First impression on unpacking the Q702 test unit was the solid feel and clean, minimalist styling.

Anthony Grifoni


For work use, Microsoft Word and Excel programs pre-installed on the device are adequate for preparing short documents.

Steph Mundell


The Fujitsu LifeBook UH574 allowed for great mobility without being obnoxiously heavy or clunky. Its twelve hours of battery life did not disappoint.

Andrew Mitsi


The screen was particularly good. It is bright and visible from most angles, however heat is an issue, particularly around the Windows button on the front, and on the back where the battery housing is located.

Simon Harriott


My first impression after unboxing the Q702 is that it is a nice looking unit. Styling is somewhat minimalist but very effective. The tablet part, once detached, has a nice weight, and no buttons or switches are located in awkward or intrusive positions.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?