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Another Communications Outage at Washington Center Cripples Flight Operations To and From the New York Area - (11/20/2008)

CONTACTS:  Washington Center NATCA Representative, Rich Santa, 240-291-1266; NATCA National Office, Alexandra Caldwell, 202-220-9813, acaldwell@natcadc.org

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Busy Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center has experienced yet another outage, only a month after a chaotic radio outage in October.  Responsible for safely directing high altitude air traffic in an airspace spanning over D.C., Delaware, and parts of Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, West Virginia, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania, Washington Center has had its fair share of outages recently – this being the third in a short period of time. 

The outage lasted approximately 12 hours, with communication first lost at 11:18 p.m. on Tuesday, November 18 and not returning until approximately 11 a.m. Wednesday morning.  Like the previous outage this one affected radio communication in one busy sector of the center, the area responsible for flights heading to and from the New York area including LaGuardia, JFK, Newark and Teterboro.  Because the outage left the controllers unable to communicate with pilots flying those routes restrictions had to be issued, requiring most aircraft to fly with 40-miles between them in trail – when the regular requirement is only 15 miles.  Such a restriction put planes into holding patterns in order to institute and maintain the increased separation, causing delays.

Said Rich Santa, NATCA Facility Representative at Washington Center:  “When an outage like this occurs it affects everything.  Thankfully this outage didn’t occur during a big rush for us, otherwise the delays to and from New York would have been unimaginable.”

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