Image: LAX meltdown
Dan Steinberg  /  AP FILE
Travelers wait in line for security screening at Los Angeles International Airport after a computer failure by customs and border protection left thousands of passengers stranded on airplanes and in terminals last month.
updated 9/4/2007 11:27:23 AM ET 2007-09-04T15:27:23

Screeners at one of the U.S.'s busiest airports received new computers ahead of schedule as federal officials scrambled to prevent a repeat of last month's systems breakdown that stranded 17,000 international travelers.

The enhancements at Los Angeles International Airport are part of a $15.3 million effort to refurbish technical systems at the U.S.'s 104 major airports and border crossings within the next six to nine months.

The initiative gained urgency after the Aug. 11 computer network failure in Los Angeles that left inbound international travelers stuck for hours in the terminal or on airplanes because authorities were unable to screen them.

"We recognize that having folks sit on airplanes for hours is not acceptable, so we have to look at new procedures ... to make sure it doesn't happen again," said Ken Ritchhart, assistant information and technology commissioner with U.S. Customs and Border Protection.

He said the nationwide technology-improvement campaign is about nine months ahead of schedule.

At the Los Angeles airport, customs officials received 100 new laptops last week. By Christmas, the airport's entire customs system will be redone, with new workstations, network switches, routers and cables, and a satellite backup system that will allow screeners to access network databases if local routers fail, Ritchhart said.

Officials traced the source of the Aug. 11 system breakdown to a malfunctioning network interface card on a single desktop computer. The failure of the card, which allows computers to connect to a local area network, started a domino effect that disabled other computer network cards.

The system was up and running about 10 hours later, but the next day it experienced an 80 minute outage blamed on a power supply failure.

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