Atlanta Airport Telecom Lines Fail After Repair Mistake

Telecommunications lines that transmit data between the air traffic control tower at the world's busiest airport and pilots went down for 4 1/2 hours last week because of a repair mishap, the Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday.

The problem Friday in the tower at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport did not cause any delays because controllers were able to use fax lines and headsets to pass along flight plans and other data, FAA spokesman Paul Takemoto said.

"The bottom line is safety was not compromised and there were no delays," Takemoto said.

A technician doing scheduled maintenance on the telecommunications lines made a mistake and both the main line and backup went down, Takemoto said.

The mishap was disclosed by the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, a union that represents employees who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control equipment.

The union said Wednesday that the mishap, which it claimed happened June 8, disrupted communications and highlighted what it said was a growing problem. It also said there were three flight delays as a result.

The problem included both departing and arriving flights.

"Any time a system goes down, especially in Atlanta, it is a big deal," said Dave Spero, a regional vice president for the union.

Hartsfield-Jackson is the world's busiest airport in both passengers and takeoffs and landings, based on 2005 figures.

An airport spokesman referred calls to the FAA.


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