As many as 800 commercial airline flights bound for Southern California were diverted and all takeoffs from the Los Angeles area’s major airports were halted after radio and radar equipment failed for 3½ hours at a major air traffic control center in the Mojave Desert on Tuesday, reports the Los Angeles Times. The diverted flights landed at airports in Northern California and other states, officials said, creating a massive air traffic snarl that was expected to last into today. Planes scheduled to take off for Southern California were held on the ground at airports nationwide.
A computer glitch at 4:40 p.m. apparently caused the radio and radar failures at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center in Palmdale, which handles cruise-altitude air traffic across Southern California and most of Arizona and Nevada, an area of about 178,000 square miles. Without warning, radios went dead and radar screens went blank. An official with the air traffic controllers union said a seldom-used backup system came up “for a couple of minutes, and then it failed too.” Exactly what went wrong was not immediately determined. The radar and radios came back in service about 8:15 p.m.