The Computer System That Shutdown An Airline

from the the-glitch-that-stole-christmas? dept

There are plenty of stories going around from this past weekend about the astounding number of flights canceled due to computer and staffing problems. While US Air got plenty of headlines for their staffing issues (baggage handlers calling in sick at record rates leading to planes that were simply filled with excess lost baggage), the more interesting story appears to be Delta's subsidiary Comair. Lots of articles are talking about the 1,100 flights on Christmas day due to their computer system getting knocked out, but there's very little info on the actual cause of the problem. There's just the fact that no one can explain why there was no backup system, and that the computer crash was caused by the system being overwhelmed after weather problems required many flights to be canceled and crew to be reassigned. In other words, a lot of users were trying to figure out how to reassign flight crews to different flights, and all that activity made the system lie down and go to sleep. You would think that anyone building systems this important would have backups in place and build things in a way that would make them unlikely to crash, but this is hardly the first time things of this nature have happened.
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  • identicon
    Beck, 27 Dec 2004 @ 6:06am

    Could Be

    My theory: The system handled the first 255 cancelled flights just fine, but number 256 killed it.

    (Some programmer in India is saying "who ever thought they would cancel that many flights in one day?")

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Beck, 28 Dec 2004 @ 11:03am

      Re: Could Be

      Holy cow, I was right!

      The system uses a 16-bit integer to sequentially number the scheduling changes each month, meaning the system was limited to 32,766 schedule changes per month.

      Tom Carter, a computer consultant with Clover Link Systems of Los Angeles, said the application has a hard limit of 32,000 changes in a single month.

      "This probably seemed like plenty to the designers, but when the storms hit last week, they caused many, many crew reassignments, and the value of 32,000 was exceeded," he said.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Barksdale, 27 Dec 2004 @ 7:20am

    Place your bets...

    What are the odds the crashed system ran on Microsoft Windows? Pretty high, I'd say.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      IM PSD, 7 Jan 2005 @ 1:40am

      Re: Place your bets...

      I am sure that open Lynux / or Tuty Fruity would have been much better. Stop bashing the golden goose that is fueling the world's economy. There are more important issues to discuss.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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