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Delta shutdown strands 1,000-plus at Narita airport

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A power outage knocks out an airline? What are they running filemaker pro as a database or something? How about some backup plans? Serious IT oversight there.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

It's not that simple

The aircraft rely on datalinks to get acars data / communicate with maintenance personnel and most importantly receive and confirm weight and loading manifests before takeoff. Without the weight and loading sheets the aircraft can't go anywhere. If the central server and its backup go down everything stops.

There probably is a better way to design it but it can't be easily designed so that if one server goes down another can just take over - there would be gaps in what was recorded, dangerous for departing flights. Additionally the aircraft flight management computers themselves are old and do not lend themselves to easy modification.

10 ( +12 / -2 )

Delta isn't telling the full story.

3 ( +4 / -1 )

just for reference, my Pops had a flight on Allegiant Air in the US for a short 2 hour flight. the flight was canceled and rescheduled the next day. They gave him a hotel room voucher, money for breakfast and a 100 dollar voucher. When my flight in Japan from Hokkaido was canceled in February, they rescheduled me for the next day and gave me a list of local hotels. that's it!!! no voucher, no meal, no nothing...

7 ( +7 / -0 )

I am sticking with ANA!!

-5 ( +4 / -9 )

@John - I like ANA, however if you recall they are not immune to these issues either.

http://www.flyertalk.com/articles/ana-computer-problems-cause-chaos-at-airports-across-japan.html

Interesting how Georgia Power reports no other disturbances. Obviously something went wrong in their data center, which caused this glitch. Generally data centers use a "six sigma" approach to design, operation, and maintenance and as James pointed out the systems are very complicated and a ripple effect occurs through the system which is what causes such widespread mayhem.

There are ways to design in redundancy and maximize reliability but not every possible "glitch" can be designed out (and most likely there are "glitches" out there that have not even been considered).

4 ( +4 / -0 )

Why were people staying at the airport? Aren't you supposed to get a hotel voucher when this happens?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

Delta isn't telling the full story.

based on what?

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

descendentAUG. 09, 2016 - 02:37PM JST Why were people staying at the airport? Aren't you supposed to get a hotel voucher when this happens?

A lot of the big American airlines don't seem to do this anymore. When I got stranded because United cancelled my flight, their "service" was to give me a phone number where I could call to find cheaper hotels in the area. No voucher.

0 ( +3 / -3 )

It might have been difficult to find more than 1,000 rooms at Narita airport hotels at short notice. And transporting 1,000 passengers into Tokyo looking for rooms wouldn't have been practical either, since the passengers would have been required to be within the vicinity of the airport or easily reachable by the airline for when they could resume departures.

0 ( +2 / -2 )

Delta and NWA became the beast they are today but Delta has always been known for having some of the oldest aircraft flying followed closely by NWA. I wouldn't be surprised if this mindset of squeezing every last penny and then a few more didn't just bite them in the a$$ because they didn't listen to their IT department's constant screams to update their system infrastructure. I've worked for quite a few companies who's 'good enough' mindset caused them to lose customers and unknown financial loses because their IT systems weren't backed up properly. UPS backup on every item plus back up power generation on the whole data centre when you're as big as Delta would be the minimum. What really went wrong and is being blamed on a power outage is complete BS but of course I doubt we will ever really know.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

"based on what?"

Based on the fact the local utility is not reporting any problems. Also, these systems have redundancy for power outages.

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Based on the fact the local utility is not reporting any problems. Also, these systems have redundancy for power outages.

Yes, the story already points to a likely problem with Delta's equipment. Do you somehow think they're hiding Jimmy Hoffa's body where their back-up Dell is supposed to be stored? Maybe aliens did it?

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@James Burke

There probably is a better way to design it but it can't be easily designed so that if one server goes down another can just take over - there would be gaps in what was recorded

Actually the solution is quite simple, a Master/Slave database which replicates data over multiple servers/locations. So if the main server goes down, another server will be assigned as 'Master'. The only data lost in this case would be the data that was being processed on the old 'Master' while it went down.

Now if the solution is so simple why didn't they do it that way? answer: it costs money.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

I think Trump was behind it all!

-3 ( +0 / -3 )

A lot of the big American airlines don't seem to do this anymore. When I got stranded because United cancelled my flight, their "service" was to give me a phone number where I could call to find cheaper hotels in the area. No voucher.

I also had this experience with American Airlines last year.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Seems it is that easy to stop an entire airline fleet...just knock out their system or hack it. In this case the airline KO itself.

What are IATA and ICAO for?

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Actually the solution is quite simple, a Master/Slave database which replicates data over multiple servers/locations. So if the main server goes down, another server will be assigned as 'Master'. The only data lost in this case would be the data that was being processed on the old 'Master' while it went down.

Now if the solution is so simple why didn't they do it that way? answer: it costs money.

The problem is not one of money, Delta is famous for buying and using old aircraft to defray initial acquisition costs that kill many other airlines with payments.

Losing even a little data is not acceptable in airline operations. When any data is lost it could cause unforeseen problems.

The issue is mostly because the people developing the systems have to make the systems work with existing systems that were written up to 30 years ago, or even older. The new systems need to have extreme scalability so that they can be modified in the future. But not only this, the systems need to work with a HUGE fleet of very diverse aircraft spanning many generations.

To add to all those challenges, aircraft datalinks are generally satellite or VHF, UHF or HF radio driven, so the system needs to be capable of recording ALL the data that is sent and received by aircraft and ground stations.

It is staggeringly complicated to manage a huge airline like Delta, I don't envy the task they have.

While some people might feel inconvenienced, you should be happy they take your safety seriously enough to ground the flights. Crappy airlines in some parts of the world would just fly with rough estimates. Incorrect loading / center of gravity issues have killed hundreds of aircraft throughout history including 747's (jumbo jets). So don't get too upset..You'll live to fly another day.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Better safe than SORRY!! For those crying about getting to their destination they should just quit and be thankful, things could be worse and they could be at their final destination. Better to be safe than sorry!

1 ( +3 / -2 )

Sometimes technology is so heavily integrated into our lives that we treat it like a fact of nature rather than a series of things designed, built, and maintained by people just like us.

It's interesting that this happened shortly after a router failure at Southwest Airlines (domestic US carrier and one of the world's largest by volume) caused huge disruptions to their service.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

Reminds me of the joke from years ago: (D)on’t (E)ver (L)eave (T)he (A)irport. ;)

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

So that's why I didn't get a quote approval yesterday..

0 ( +1 / -1 )

Air travel wasn't dreadful 40 years ago.

Weight & Balance was calcualted by humans with jobs who raised families, travelers dressed in clothes other than flip flops and tank tops, the woman next to you didn't have hairy armpits and weigh 346 lbs., cabin attendants weren't 68 years old and could walk down the aisle without their butt slapping everyone on both sides of the aisle, everyone got something to eat and drink and a smile.

Modern travelers are insects.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

"Air travel wasn't dreadful 40 years ago."

That's because the US deregulated its airlines in the late 70s. Pride, quality and consistency have since plummeted.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

An update from Georgia Power...

"A spokesman for the local electric company, Georgia Power, said the problem started with a piece of Delta equipment called a switchgear, which direct flows within a power system. No other customers lost power, he said."

Source of updated quote:

http://www.ctvnews.ca/business/delta-cancels-more-flights-in-wake-of-computer-system-outage-1.3020668

I am amazed by the fact that Delta didn't have proper back up UPS (uninterruptible power supply) on key components which would have given them the key time of 5 to 30 seconds needed for the emergency back up power generators to come online and provide power until the main system service power was restored. Every high-rise building I have ever lived in or worked in has these back up checks annually or bi-annually. You'd think with so much riding on your data centres and IT infrastructure that this would be a top priority for Delta to keep running with many redundant backups in place to avoid a EPIC MELTDOWN like this.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

I don't understand all the hate on Delta. Last time I flew them to the States the inflight seating was fine and entertainment was good. United really is crap though.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

@ descendent we did get vouchers. Some people did not have to pay, mine was a reimbursement voucher. But if you can imagine, most hotels around the area were booked solid. Or many people didn't not want to leave and have to come back.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Air travel certainly was more luxurious and the human element was far more visible 40 years ago

Unfortunately the acciden statistics were far far worse then than they are now

Remember the gimli glider AC 767? That was an accident caused by human calculation mistakes that the aircraft weight and balance computer caught, but was overridden.

Hope delta improves its systems to be more redundant, but don't hate, they are one of the safest airlines in the world - look at their safety record

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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