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New York Center Oceanic Air Traffic Control System Failure Leaves Controllers Scrambling - (3/5/2007)

CONTACT: Pat McDonough; National Air Traffic Controllers Association at New York Air Route Traffic Control Center, Ronkonkoma, N.Y.; 631-312-0935

At 1 a.m. EST this morning (March 5), there was a failure of the Advanced Technologies and Ocean Procedures (ATOP) system that New York Center air traffic controllers use to work aircraft over the Atlantic Ocean.

It was a controller working the South Atlantic Sector, 1 of 3 ATOP sectors that were open, that first reported a CPAR failure. A CPAR failure is an indication to the controller that the protected profile of a particular flight has been corrupted.  The only solution is to delete the flight plan from the system and re-input all pertinent data for that flight to ensure that the profile of the flight is protected in the system.

A controller working the North Atlantic Sectors looked at her sector messages and commented that she just had 2 CPAR failures.  The original controller then stated that every aircraft in her sector had CPAR failed (approximately 20 aircraft).  The controller working the North Atlantic stated that all her flights were now CPAR failing also (Approximately 35 aircraft).  Controllers asked the controller working the Caribbean traffic if he was also having CPAR failures and he said yes, all his fights were now failing (approximately 12 aircraft).

Flights leaving the United States had to be diverted back to Boston Center.

The catastrophic plan in place for ATOP failed miserably. It was the outstanding work of the nine controllers that kept this situation from spiraling completely out of control.

As of 11:30 a.m. EST today, the system is still unstable and the planned traffic for tonight will be one of the top 10 busiest nights of the year for New York Center, based on the Jet Stream and the projected traffic flows, according to New York Center controllers.

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