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Adventures in Civil Aviation
December 17, 2017

At 1:06 p.m. on Sunday, Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport went dark, after an electrical fire damaged two Georgia Power substations serving the airport, including its "redundant system" in case of power failure. Thousands of passengers at the world's busiest airport were trapped for hours on grounded airplanes, trams between terminals, or in the dark airport, and the FAA quickly declared a ground stop, causing the cancelation of about 1,000 flights in and out of Atlanta on Sunday, with hundreds of flights scrapped for Monday, a week before Christmas.

Power crews restored electricity at Concourse F at 7:30 p.m., six and a half hours after the blackout began, and several other areas got power shortly before midnight. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said officials don't yet know what caused the fires, adding, "We certainly understand that the outage has caused frustration and anger and we are doing everything that we can to get folks back home right away."

CNN's Betsy Klein was stuck on a Delta airplane on the tarmac for seven hours, and she live-tweeted the experience. When she finally got off the plane at 9 p.m., she said, the airport was sweltering, nobody appeared to be in charge, and it was hard to find the exit — a trip that entailed a lot of walking, including up and down stalled escalators. She described people sleeping on baggage claim carousels and jockeying for power outlets.

Still, after seven hours on a packed plane, with no food or water for the last few hours, she was happy to finally deplane.

Hartsfield-Jackson International handled 104,171,935 passengers last year, USA Today reports, making it the most-used airport in the world. Peter Weber

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