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Washington Airspace Power Outage Prompts Delays Across the East Coast

At noon on August 15, many were looking forward to a beautiful weekend with nice temperatures across the board but were rudely awakened when their travel plans were interrupted by a power outage in the Washington Center Area (ZDC).

Screenshot from FAA advisories

Screenshot from FAA advisories

The FAA reported an En Route Automatic Modernization (ERAM) issue prompting ATC Zero which is an official term used by the Federal Aviation Administration.  ATC Zero means that the FAA can no longer safely control aircraft within a certain airspace.  This Saturday afternoon it happens to be the Washington Center area.  This prompted a ground stop meaning that no aircraft are allowed to depart or arrive at airports within that airspace.  And although many might think that only the Washington airports would be affected, unfortunately that is not the case.  Almost the entire East Coast took the hit hard, especially the New York area.

Due to the ZDC power outage, flights from the three major New York-area airports, JFK, LGA, and EWR, were originally holding flights destined for airports within the Washington Airspace until 16:15UTC.  That has been extended until 18:00UTC.  While the FAA continues to restore service to ZDC, residual delays are expected.

They are allowing some flights to operate within the airspace but they are required to maintain level flight below 10,000ft where an approach or departure controller would be able to safely control them.  All flights airborne at cruising altitudes or climbing to them are being forced to deviate and follow a reroute around ZDC in neighboring air traffic control center.

Additionally, we reached out to JetBlue for comment on just how many flights were being affected.  A spokesperson did not respond but told us that JetBlue urges passengers to check their flight status prior to leaving for the airport.  Everyone is referring to the FAA as the main person to contact on this issue, reasonably so.  We contacted the FAA and spokeswoman explained that the FAA “is diagnosing an automation problem at an air traffic center at Leesburg, VA. The FAA also made clear to us that this was not the work of a hacker and it was not related to an accident.

UPDATE: Washington Center has reopened and flights are slowly trickling into the ZDC airspace. Full restoration could take awhile, however.

We will update you if more info is available. 

Malick Mercier
Malick Mercier
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