Sunday, December 17, 2017

Atlanta Airport Blackout Exposes a Flaw in Backup Power Systems: Officials say they will investigate whether they need to install more redundant power, a day after an outage that caused hundreds of flight cancellations



The Wall Street Journal
By Russell Gold and  Susan Carey
Updated Dec. 19, 2017 8:50 a.m. ET

The power failure that brought the world’s busiest airport to a standstill underscored the vulnerability of critical infrastructure to electrical disruptions, despite backup systems designed to keep the lights on.

A fire in a crucial piece of electrical equipment shut down the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for nearly 11 hours on Sunday, stranding hundreds of thousands of passengers on airplanes and in terminals. It caused a cascade of delays that continued to affect air travel around the country on Monday during the start of the hectic holiday travel period and risks further delays into Tuesday.

Delta Air Lines Inc., the biggest carrier at Atlanta with more than 73% of the passenger traffic, said it cancelled 1,000 flights Sunday and at least 400 on Monday as it strives to normalize operations.

Problems began around 1 p.m. Sunday when an underground piece of electrical equipment owned by Georgia Power failed and caught fire, the utility believes. Two separate electrical substations feed power into the equipment, called a transfer switch. Normally, if one substations fails, the switch can go to the other in milliseconds, allowing for a seamless supply of power.



But in this case, both the switch and the cables providing the redundant power to the airport were damaged by a fire in the tunnel, disabling the power flow to the airport, officials said.

It wasn’t clear whose responsibility it was to have more redundant power. The airport and the power company are required to have a backup emergency electricity plan that must be approved by the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA said it would work closely with the airport in its investigation over the incident.

The airport had backup power for emergency lights and other life-saving equipment, said airport spokesman Reese McCranie, but nothing else. He said the airport planned to look at adding more backup power among other possible fixes.

“I don’t want to get into finger pointing here. The airport and Georgia Power are going to be working very closely in the days and weeks ahead to review what we have currently in place and make improvements where needed,” he said.

Jacob Hawkins, a spokesman for Georgia Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co., said, “We’re evaluating the system and will be working with the airport to ensure that this doesn’t happen again.” He added “we will need to add more redundancy.”

The Atlanta airport’s electricity configuration, where redundant power sources flow through a single piece of equipment, is typical of how major power networks operate, said Paul Bowers,  chief executive of Georgia Power.

Nam Paik, vice president of sales at TSi Power, a Wisconsin company that designs and builds smaller transfer switches that aren’t used in Atlanta, questioned why a backup switch wasn’t in place to act as a safeguard in case the first failed. Such a secondary switch of the size needed for Atlanta, connected to a large portable generator, would likely cost several million dollars.

“Basically the Atlanta airport’s problem was they put all their eggs in one basket and that basket caught on fire,” Mr. Paik said. “Major airports should have at least three redundant power systems.”

Some other airports have different configurations to protect against power outages. The Dallas Fort Worth International Airport is fed by two sets of power lines, one entering the facility from the north and the other from the south. If one fails, the other can power the entire airport, said David Magaña, a Dallas airport spokesman.

The half-day shutdown could prove expensive for airlines. A Delta information-technology center failure at the Atlanta airport in the summer of 2016 led to the cancellations of 2,300 flights over three days. The company later estimated it lost $150 million in pretax income due to the outage in the third quarter of 2016.

Passengers were stunned that the sprawling airport could be immobilized for so long. Jet bridges couldn’t be used to get passengers off planes. The airport train, security scanners, baggage systems and airline computer systems were inoperable and only emergency lighting worked throughout the terminals. Power was restored at about 11:45 p.m., said a Georgia Power spokesman.

“There is no excuse for lack of workable redundant power source. None!” wrote former U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx on twitter. He was stuck on a Delta flight on the tarmac for about five hours, he tweeted.

A lack of adequate power backup is effectively a choice companies make, said Gil Hecht, CEO of consultancy Continuity Software.

“For real critical projects the technology is readily available and is being used all over the market,” such as in data centers used by financial services, he said.

Having redundancy in power suppliers or providing for local backup that kicks in when primary power is lost can be costly, he said, adding “it is all about the money.”

Hartsfield-Jackson handles about 104 million passengers a year, with a total of 2,500 arriving and departing flights a day.

FlightAware.com, the flight tracking provider, said there were 1,285 flight cancellations in the U.S. Sunday, and nearly 3,100 delays, many tied to the Atlanta problem. Southwest Airlines Co. also scrubbed many of its Atlanta flights. For Monday, FlightAware is showing 570 cancellations in the U.S., most of them by Delta.

Sunday’s outage forced airlines to halt all outbound flights Sunday and planes heading to Atlanta were held on the ground at their points of origin. International flights were diverted to other airports that have customs and immigration facilities.

Though the Atlanta outage was an extreme case, airports and airlines around the world have been vulnerable to electrical disruptions.



A power outage at a British Airways data center this year caused widespread disruptions at one of Europe’s biggest airlines. London Heathrow, Europe’s busiest hub and the biggest gateway for U.S. passengers to Europe, two years earlier suffered disruptions to its luggage system when the airport temporarily lost power.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol, another major European transfer hub for international flights, in 2015 also had flight plans thrown into chaos when an electric substation failed cutting power supply to the airport.

Since an August 2016 fire that crippled Delta’s IT center, the company has built a new data center “so we don’t need to worry about the fragility of the old data center,” Ed Bastian, the chief executive, said last week in an investor briefing. He called 2017 “a year of significant investment in reliability and the infrastructure of the enterprise.”

Delta, the nation’s No. 2 airline by traffic, told passengers early Monday that they can change their flights planned for Sunday through Tuesday without a fee if they travel by Friday. It also said it would pay for their hotel stays in Atlanta on Sunday and urged passengers with checked luggage destined for Atlanta to file claims online and avoid going to Hartsfield-Jackson Monday to retrieve their luggage.

—Robert Wall contributed to this article.

https://www.wsj.com



Airlines serving Atlanta’s airport struggled to resume their normal schedules on Monday, a day after a sudden electrical outage sparked thousands of flight cancellations on Sunday and hundreds more on Monday.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic and a major hub for Delta Air Lines Inc., said power was fully restored around midnight on Sunday after the stoppage halted the airport train, baggage belt systems and airline computer access.

Thousands of fliers were trapped in the airport Sunday at the start of the hectic holiday travel period, leading to overbooked planes on Monday.

The airport said early Monday that the power had returned along with concession shops and restaurants and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints. The airport said fliers had to reprint any Sunday tickets before security screening.

Paul Bowers, chief executive of Georgia Power, said Monday that the airport is served by two electrical substations, either of which could have powered the facility. But he said a fire in an underground concrete tunnel, where cables from both substations come together, damaged a switch that determines which substation is used.

“It is so rare that a switch would fail like that,” he said. But “issues like this occur” and the power company, a unit of Southern Co., is looking at ways of preventing such a problem in the future. Mr. Bowers said it is normal to have all the power cables in one tunnel. In an interview with ABC, said the power company will assess “what else do we do? Do we separate the cables?”

The outage forced airlines to halt all outbound flights Sunday at an airport that handles about 2,500 flights a day. Planes heading to Atlanta were held on the ground at their points of origin. Authorities diverted international flights to other airports that have customs and immigration facilities.

FlightAware.com, the flight tracking provider, said there were 1,285 flight cancellations in the U.S. Sunday, and nearly 3,100 delays, many tied to the Atlanta problem. Southwest Airlines Co. , also scrubbed many of its Atlanta flights. For Monday, FlightAware is showing 570 cancellations in the U.S., most of them by Delta.

Delta alone said it canceled nearly 1,000 flights on Sunday and scrubbed another 300 flights slated for Monday morning, mostly early inbound flights to Atlanta. Delta said it expects operations to return to normal later Monday, but it was still unclear on Monday afternoon if that was possible.

Delta, the nation’s No. 2 airline by traffic, told passengers early Monday that they can change their flights planned for Sunday through Tuesday without a fee if they travel by Friday. It also said it would pay for their hotel stays in Atlanta on Sunday and urged passengers with checked luggage destined for Atlanta to file claims online and avoid going to Hartsfield-Jackson Monday to retrieve their luggage.

Georgia Power said Sunday that a “switchgear” in the underground facility could have failed and started the fire, which caused no injuries. Mayor Kasim Reed said in a press briefing that it took almost two hours to contain the fire.

The outage comes at a sensitive time for Georgia Power. On Thursday, the Georgia Public Service Commission is scheduled to vote on the future of the half-built Vogtle nuclear power plant. The project is billions of dollars over budget and years behind schedule.

The Trump administration in September offered $3.7 billion in additional loan guarantees, potentially raising the total federal loan guarantees to $12 billion. The utility wants to pass on the higher costs to ratepayers, hence a vote on whether those higher expenses can be passed on to customers.

Delta in August 2016 had a fire in its information-technology center that forced it to cancel 2,300 flights over three days. Since then, the Atlanta company has built a new data center “so we don’t need to worry about the fragility of the old data center,” Ed Bastian, the chief executive, said last week in an investor briefing. He called 2017 “a year of significant investment in reliability and the infrastructure of the enterprise.”

Many airlines strive to have redundant power sources for their IT operations because those functions are central to many operational tasks and to dealing with customers. But it has little control over the electric utility that powers the Atlanta airport.

—Russell Gold contributed to this article.

https://www.wsj.com




The Wall Street Journal 
By Susan Carey
Dec. 18, 2017 7:54 a.m. ET

After a sudden electrical outage halted flights to and from Atlanta’s giant airport for 11 hours on Sunday, the lights came on again around midnight but airport operations won’t return to normal on Monday as airlines struggle to get back on track.

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, the world’s busiest by passenger traffic and a major hub for Delta Air Lines Inc., said power was fully restored around midnight Sunday after going out around 1 p.m. ET. The outage meant elevators and the airport train were inoperable, baggage belt systems were out and check-in agents had no computer access.

Thousands of fliers were trapped in the airport Sunday, well into the start of the hectic holiday travel period. This would mean that planes are full and there will be few seats available for passengers on later flights as airlines tried to restore regular service.

The airport tweeted early Monday that the power was back on, airport concession shops and restaurants were opening and Transportation Security Administration checkpoints were operational. The airport also told fliers that if they had tickets for Sunday flights, they would have to reprint them before security screening.

Hartsfield handles about 104 million passengers a year, with a total of 2,500 arriving and departing flights a day.

Delta said it canceled nearly 1,000 flights on Sunday and scrubbed another 300 flights slated for Monday morning, mostly early inbound flights to Atlanta.

The outage forced airlines to halt all outbound flights Sunday and planes heading to Atlanta were held on the ground at their points of origin. International flights were diverted to other airports that have customs and immigration facilities.

Delta, the nation’s No. 2 airline by traffic, told passengers early Monday that they can change their flights planned for Sunday through Tuesday without a fee if they travel by Friday. It also said it would pay for their hotel stays in Atlanta on Sunday and urged passengers with checked luggage destined for Atlanta to file claims online and avoid going to Hartsfield Monday to retrieve their luggage.

Southern Co. , the parent of Georgia Power, said a fire caused extensive damage to a Georgia Power underground facility, which affected electric substations serving the airport. The fire was extinguished without injury. Southern said that the outage was “rare” and that it has redundant systems in place to guard against such problems.

One flier stuck on a Delta flight tweeted Sunday that “there is no excuse for lack of redundant power source.”

Delta in August 2016 had a fire in its information-technology center that forced it to cancel 2,300 flights over three days. Since then, the Atlanta company has built a new data center “so we don’t need to worry about the fragility of the old data center,” Ed Bastian, the chief executive, said last week in an investor briefing. He called 2017 “a year of significant investment in reliability and the infrastructure of the enterprise.”

Many airlines strive to have redundant power sources for their IT operations because those functions are central to many operational tasks and to dealing with customers. But there is less an airline can do about an electric utility that powers its largest airport.

Local media in Atlanta reported that Mayor Kasim Reed said in a press briefing that it took almost two hours to contain the Georgia Power fire. He said the utility’s switch that accesses the backup power system was also damaged in the blaze, causing both do go down.

FlightAware.com, the flight tracking provider, said there were 1,285 flight cancellations in the U.S. Sunday, and nearly 3,100 delays, many tied to the Atlanta problem. Southwest Airlines Co. , also scrubbed many of its Atlanta flights. For Monday, FlightAware is showing 536 cancellations in the U.S., most of them by Delta, by far the largest operator in Atlanta.

Delta said it expects operations to return to normal later Monday, which could be a feat given that crews and airplanes are out of position and airports are thronged with holiday fliers.

https://www.wsj.com



The Wall Street Journal

By Ian Lovett and  Susan Carey
Updated Dec. 18, 2017 12:15 a.m. ET


Electricity has been restored to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport late Sunday, hours after an outage unleashed havoc on travelers around the country, leading to hundreds of flight cancellations during one of the most hectic travel periods of the year.

The power went out at Hartsfield-Jackson—the busiest airport in the world by passenger traffic, with an average of 275,000 passengers daily—shortly after 1 p.m. Sunday, according to airport officials.

Shortly before midnight, Georgia Power tweeted that power had been restored to all essential services at the airport, including all concourses and flight operations.

The outage may be linked to a fire that caused extensive damage to a Georgia Power underground electrical facility, the utility said in a press release.

The effects of the outage are likely to spill into Monday’s flights, given that aircraft and crew won’t be in position to operate as scheduled and displaced passengers will need to be accommodated.

As a result of Sunday’s outage, the Federal Aviation Administration ordered all flights bound for Atlanta held on the ground. International flights bound for the airport were diverted elsewhere, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

“The cause of the incident remains under investigation,” according to a message on the airport’s Twitter page, posted Sunday afternoon. “ATL officials are working with Georgia Power to identify the cause and remedy the situation.”

In a statement, the FAA said, “The FAA Tower can operate normally, however, departures are delayed because airport equipment in the terminals is not working.”

The outage affected “all concourses and terminal buildings,” according to Twitter posts from Delta Air Lines Inc., which has a major hub in Atlanta.

Delta said it canceled 900 flights on Sunday. The airline said in a tweet that it expected to operate a nearly full schedule on Monday, pending the resumption of power.

Southwest Airlines canceled all flights to or from Atlanta for the rest of the day on Sunday.

American Airlines Group Inc., the largest airline by traffic, isn’t big in Atlanta. The airline said it had 47 fights scheduled to depart Sunday from the city, 24 of which were canceled, and a similar number of arrivals. Three arriving planes were unloaded and three planes were diverted to other airports.

This weekend marks the beginning of the hectic holiday travel season. Airlines for America, a trade group, estimated that 51 million passengers would fly on U.S. carriers globally from Dec. 15 to Jan. 4, up 3.5% from a year ago.

https://www.wsj.com



A major power outage grounded flights at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport Sunday afternoon.

Here are the latest updates:

5:12 pm - -Delta says it is deplaning aircraft that have not been able to depart due to the power outage.

4:43 -- A friend of 11Alive reporter Natisha Lance says partial power has been restored in the International Terminal via a generator, but none of the monitors are on. She says people are “surprisingly calm” because “no one knows what is going on.” No one has told them anything. 

4:31 pm -- Delta has issued a travel waiver for passengers affected by the power outage.

4 pm -- Airport officials say they are still working to restore power at the airport. The ground stop continues, and there is no timetable for when flights will be allowed to resume. The exact cause of the power outage is still under investigation. Many inbound flights to Atlanta are being diverted.

3:53 pm -- Southwest Airline has canceled all flights into and out of Atlanta for the rest of the day.

3:37 pm -- According to the U.S. Customs and Border southeastern division, all international flights heading into Atlanta are being diverted to other airports.

3:22 pm -- The FAA has extended the ground stop to at least 4 pm, and says between 80 to 100 jets are parked on the taxiways, waiting for gates.

3:15 pm -- Major airlines are canceling flights at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in the aftermath of a major power outage Sunday afternoon.

Southwest Airlines is canceling "all but a handful of international flights," according to an airline spokesperson.

Delta Air Lines says it is aware of the power outage and the flight disruptions are expected. Delta customers are encouraged check the status of their flight via the Fly Delta Mobile App or Delta.com.

Airport officials say the outage occurred at 12:55 p.m., and affects several areas of the airport. The outage was due to an electrical issue at a Georgia Power substation, according to an airport spokesperson who spoke to NBC News.

Read more here ➤ http://www.11alive.com



ATLANTA - The Federal Aviation Administration has issued a ground stop for all flights into Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport after a large power outage Sunday around 1 p.m., according to a statement released on the airport's official Twitter account.

According to the release a ground stop means flights into Atlanta are being held at their departure airports. 

Atlanta's Fire Rescue reported flight, security and taxiing delays. 

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection reports that because of the power outage International arriving flights will be diverted and land at other airports.

Delta Airlines official Twitter account tweeted that travel waivers will be given out for December 17-18.

Some passengers have reported being stuck in airplanes for around three hours. There are significant cell reception issues at the airport, making it difficult for people to reach their loved ones. 

The airport recommends passengers check with their individual airlines' for flight information. 

Story and photo gallery ➤ http://www.fox5atlanta.com





ATLANTA (RNN) - Emergency lights flashed, ground traffic came to a halt and inbound passengers are stuck on their planes after power was lost at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport in Atlanta on Sunday.

In addition to all air traffic coming to a halt in Atlanta, the Federal Aviation Administration enacted a ground stop for all flights headed to Atlanta, meaning that they will not be allowed to take off until the stop is lifted.

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported a pilot relayed a message to passengers saying a construction crew severed a power line that serves the airport. Georgia Power said it was working with airport authorities to determine the cause of the outage.

Power was lost in at least two terminals and the airport public address system reported an emergency. An airport customer service representative confirmed a power outage, but could not say how much of the airport was affected.

There are reports from people at the airport that flights are delayed and inbound flights cannot deplane due to lack of power in the jetways.

The outage was first reported about 1 p.m. Eastern.

Dozens of passengers have tweeted reports of planes stuck at the gate, power lost throughout the airport, pilots announcing diverted flights and TSA not allowing people off of stalled escalators.

It is not known how many flights may be affected.

It is raining in the Atlanta area, but it is not known if the weather played a role in the outage.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the busiest airport in the world, serving 150 domestic destinations and 75 international airports in 50 countries. On average, 275,000 passengers pass through the airport each day.

Story, photo gallery and video ➤ http://www.wafb.com





A power outage grounded all flights at the world's busiest airport on Sunday afternoon, causing a ripple effect that will likely push across the entire nation.

Power went out at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport early Sunday afternoon.

Airport officials say the outage occurred at 12:55 p.m., and affects several areas of the airport. The outage was due to an electrical issue at a Georgia Power substation, according to an airport spokesperson who spoke to NBC News.

11Alive's Faith Abubey was in the North Terminal at the time of the outage, and reports that all power is out there. In speaking to staff at the United Airlines desk, she says she was told that the outage was over the entire airport and that flights were grounded.

Abubey reports that the Plane Train, which connects each of the terminals below ground, is also affected.

Additionally, data service in and around the airport area is affected, limiting cell phone service in that area.

John Creft with Georgia Power indicated at 1:30 pm that there was a power outage at Hartsfield-Jackson, and that repair crews had been dispatched to the airport to work on the problem.

Airport officials said they were aware of the problem and were working to update the situation.

Georgia Power officials have also indicated they are working to alleviate the issue as soon as possible.

The FAA released a statement noting a ground stop for all flights heading to Atlanta from other airports around the nation as a result of the power outage at Hartsfield-Jackson.

The Federal Aviation Administration has put in a ground stop for flights headed to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport due to a power outage affecting the airport terminals. The FAA Tower can operate normally, however, departures are delayed because airport equipment in the terminals is not working. A ground stop means that flights headed to Atlanta are held on the ground at their departure airport.

FAA officials said they will provide an update as new information becomes available.

A ground stop at Hartsfield-Jackson will likely affect flights across the entire nation, due to delays resulting from passengers connecting through Atlanta. 

Story and video ➤ http://www.11alive.com





Hartsfield-Jackson international Airport is reporting a loss of electricity.

The FlightAware site reports the airport is currently holding all inbound flights due to an equipment outage.

The outage was reported about 1:15 p.m.

Flyers should check the official FAA website for air traffic control updates. As of 2:20 p.m., traffic destined to Atlanta was being delayed at its departure point.

A Delta Air Lines pilot told passengers a construction crew cut a power line, causing the outage, but an airport spokesman, Andy Gobeil, said officials still weren’t sure.

“We have not determined what caused it,” Gobeil said. Atlanta fire officials and others are “trying to determine how long it will take to get everything up and running.” 

Georgia Power officials confirmed they are aware of the problem, but didn’t have additional information.

John Reetz, a passenger on Flight DL 5297, said his is one of about 30 planes parked on the tarmac, waiting for power to be restored.

“Can’t extend jetways from terminal so planes are parking on tarmac,” Reetz said in an email.

The pilot told passengers about 2:30 p.m. that nobody had issued any estimate on when the power would be restored, Reetz said.

“All we can do is listen and wait to hear something," the pilot told passengers. 

Read more here ➤ http://www.ajc.com

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Atlanta and its airport are run by Democrats. What do you expect?