06 May '12, 9am

A software error that almost caused thousands of life

It was an air traffic controller's worst nightmare. Without warning, on Tuesday, 14 September, at about 5 p.m. Pacific daylight time, air traffic controllers lost voice contact with 400 airplanes they were tracking over the southwestern United States. Planes started to head toward one another, something that occurs routinely under careful control of the air traffic controllers, who keep airplanes safely apart. But now the controllers had no way to redirect the planes' courses. "You could see airplanes getting awfully close but you're powerless. You can do nothing about it," said Hamid Ghaffari, an air traffic controller at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, Calif., where the crisis occurred. The center is responsible for airplanes flying above 13 000 feet (4000 meters) in 460 000 square kilometers of airspace over Southern California and parts of...

Full article: http://spectrum.ieee.org/aerospace/aviation/lost-radio-co...

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