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Computer Glitch Continues to Disrupt Japanese Aviation - 2003-03-02

For the second day in a row Sunday, air travel in Japan is being disrupted. Chaos erupted at airports across the country after a computer glitch prompted the cancellation, postponement or delays of hundreds of flights.

At airports all over Japan, passengers are hearing announcements of new flight delays.

More than 200 flights have been canceled since a computer malfunction Saturday morning at the Tokyo Air Traffic Control Center. About 1,400 other flights were delayed for hours.

On Sunday, airlines still were struggling to move planes and crews to clear up the backlog of stranded passengers. That was creating new delays for frustrated travelers.

Officials of the Construction and Transport Ministry blame the mess on the simultaneous failure of the primary and backup computers for the flight data processing system. The system gathers and processes flight information from all of the nation's airports and sends it to four control centers around Japan.

The problem was fixed within a few hours, but not before causing chaos to airline schedules.

Airline executives say it is the first time such serious problems have been caused by a failure in the air traffic control system, although both computers did crash five years ago.

The air traffic control center, where the computer failure occurred, manages 70 percent of Japanese airspace, including some of the flight paths over water.