Thousands of travelers across the western United States and Canada had their plans disrupted by an 80-minute power outage at a radar facility that handles flights in and out of Southern California.
The outage at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center was reported shortly after 5:30 p.m. Tuesday and shut down all telephone, electrical and radar functions. The center's backup generator kicked in shortly before 7 p.m., restoring power, said Allen Kenitzer, a regional spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration.
The cause of the outage was under investigation, FAA officials said.
A Southern California Edison spokesman said a vehicle crashed into a power pole, prompting the center's backup generator to turn on. About an hour later, the generator failed.
"Their backup generator sensed there was a problem and kicked in, but for some inexplicable reason it malfunctioned," said Marlon Walker, a utility spokesman.
The radar center is located north of Los Angeles in the high desert at Palmdale. It handles flights on long-distance routes at 38,000 feet or higher in Southern California and parts of Arizona, Nevada and Utah.
Air traffic began to flow back into the Los Angeles area by 8 p.m., Kenitzer said.
At Los Angeles International Airport, the world's fifth-busiest in passenger volume, 221 flights with about 25,000 passengers were delayed, diverted to other airports, or canceled, said airport spokeswoman Nancy Castles.
At San Diego International Airport, all departing flights were halted at 5:42 p.m., said airport spokeswoman Diana Lucero. Arriving flights were unaffected.
Airports in the San Francisco Bay Area were also affected. Flights were diverted to San Jose Intenational Airport and Oakland International Airport, and planes returned to San Francisco International Airport.
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A backup generating system kicked in and no airplanes were affected.
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Inbound flights continued to land during the outage, but outgoing flights were delayed because the airport could not board passengers.