Washington, D.C., airport experiences another breakdown

All of the main frequencies and voice circuits at the control tower of Washington, D.C.'s Ronald Reagan National Airport failed for nearly an hour Tuesday when a power cable connector slid down a wire during an upgrade to the power system and hit one of three circuit breaker switches, according to a Federal Aviation Administration spokesman.

The power loss caused no impact to airport operations, said FAA spokesman Fraser Jones. Air traffic controllers used emergency transceivers to continue voice communications with aircraft pilots.

The incident comes nearly a week after a breakdown at Washington Center, which handles air traffic from New York, Boston, Raleigh-Durham, N.C., Teterboro, N.J., and all of Washington, D.C.'s airports. An investigation into that incident showed that a manual restart of a computer system held up a flight plan from Raleigh-Durham just as it was about to be printed, Jones said. FAA manually restarts the system to recertify it every other day, he said. Because the printer did not respond to the flight plan, the flight plan got stuck in the buffer and backed up the transmission of other flight plans to the printer, he said.

The backup prompted the control center to stop accepting traffic from all airports until the system could be restarted, affecting more than 300 flights.

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