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D.C., New York flight delays caused by air traffic glitch, FAA says

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Jet Blue airplane. Photo credit: airnation.com

Jet Blue airplane. Photo credit: airnation.com

WASHINGTON — A computer problem at a Virginia air traffic control center led to significant flight delays Saturday at airports in the Washington and New York City areas, the Federal Aviation Administration said.

Airports with delays included Baltimore-Washington International Airport, where departures were stalled up to two hours as of 1:15 p.m. ET, the FAA said.

An unspecified problem emerged in a computer system that processes flight plans at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia, forcing the FAA to temporarily halt departures for all planes at the D.C.-area’s three major airports, the FAA said.

Flights from at least two Washington-area airports resumed in the early afternoon, said Kimberly Gibbs, spokeswoman for the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

But the stoppage had a domino effect, pushing back numerous flights.

However, Denver International Airport reported that they were not experiencing any technical issues.

The problem also affected planes that were in the sky at the time of the computer problem, with “high-altitude traffic” diverted around the center’s airspace, FAA spokeswoman Kathleen Bergen said.

A map on flight-tracking website FlightRadar24.com seemed to illustrate the effect: Very few fights were shown over large parts of North Carolina, Virginia, Maryland, and Delaware early Saturday afternoon.

More planes were in the airspace by 1:30 p.m., with planes finally departing Washington-area airports. But planes taking off from the Washington airspace were being kept at an elevation of 10,000 feet or lower, images from FlightRadar24.com showed.

Major airlines acknowledged the East Coast delays.

“We have to make last-minute adjustments to flight plans,” Delta Air Lines spokesman Morgan Durrant said. “Flights in and out of the three major D.C.-area airports may be delayed.”

“There is an issue with air traffic control impacting all airlines’ east coast flights. Please plan accordingly,” American Airlines said on Twitter.

The FAA said general delays as of 1:15 p.m. ET included:

• Up to two hours at Baltimore-Washington International Airport

• Up to one hour at Washington Dulles International Airport

• 15 minutes or less at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport

• Up to one hour at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport

• Up to 75 minutes at New York’s LaGuardia Airport

• Up to 29 minutes at Newark Liberty International Airport