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Friday, January 28, 2011

ATC Evacuation Disrupts Transatlantic Flights

The Nav Canada air traffic control center that handles most transatlantic traffic was temporarily evacuated Jan. 27, causing ground delays and re-routings.
Controllers had to leave the Gander Area Control Center at about 9:15 a.m. EST due to smoke coming from an electrical panel in a power supply room. They returned about 40 minutes later, but it took longer to get systems up and running.
While Gander was offline, controllers in the nearby Moncton center took responsibility for the Gander oceanic airspace. However, a ground delay was issued for flights headed east to Europe until about 3 p.m. EST.
About 20 U.S. transatlantic flights were affected by this delay, a Nav Canada spokeswoman says. Some flights did take off, but stayed further south in the FAA’s New York oceanic airspace.
Westbound flights from Europe also were delayed on the ground due to the Gander evacuation, but numbers are not yet available. Snow in the U.S. and Canada caused additional disruption to transatlantic flights.
Nav Canada says there were about 200 flights already airborne in the Gander sector when the problem occurred, and these were switched over to the Moncton controllers. About two dozen westbound flights were re-routed further south to avoid the Gander airspace, an FAA official says.
The major eastbound flow occurs in the evening, and Nav Canada says the Gander center will be operating normally for these flights.

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