Boston airport disrupted by control center power outage
July 3, 1999
BOSTON (CNN) -- Lightning struck an air control radar center Friday, grounding flights at Boston's Logan International Airport and all over New England for nearly three hours and causing delays nationwide on the eve of the busy July 4 holiday.
Power was restored at 6:30 p.m. and normal operations resumed at Logan but travel delays were expected to continue well into the evening throughout the region, and there was a nationwide ripple effect due to stormy weather in the Northeast and delayed departures of Boston-bound flights from coast to coast.
Logan reported major airline flights were delayed a minimum two hours as a result of the problem, which it reported was "100 per cent back to normal" by 6:30 p.m., although takeoffs still were backed up for hours.
New York City's three major airports reported hourlong delays of about an hour and significant disruptions were reported at Hartford, Connecticut, Providence, Rhode Island, Albany and Syracuse in upstate New York as far north as Portland, Maine.
A line of thunderstorms from Baltimore to Hartford added to the air traffic woes along the East Coast.
At 5:30 p.m., not quite two hours after the disruption began, the Federal Aviation Administration began allowing some takeoffs from Logan, using backup radar systems, and international departures from airports in the New York area.
An hour later, it said it had the main system restored.
During the outage, the FAA ordered a "national ground stop" that halted flights to Boston from anywhere in the country that had not already taken off, said New York-based FAA spokeswoman Arlene Salac.
Salac would not estimate how many flights were affected by the action, but said, "It probably will cause some considerable delays, especially with this being a holiday weekend."
The power outage happened at 3:45 p.m. at the Air Traffic Control Center in Nashua, New Hampshire, an hour's drive north from Logan Airport, during a thunderstorm.
Salac said the power outage was caused by a lightning strike -- a "very unusual" occurrence.
The radar facility handles high-altitude flights of 14,000 feet or higher -- virtually all full-sized jetliners -- and was operating on backup power for nearly three hours after the disruption began for the three of its 30 sectors of air space blacked out by the outage.
Salac described the national ground stop as "an added safety measure. We want to be able to take care of the aircraft that's airborne when the outage occurs."
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