updated 4/12/2004 8:06:22 PM ET 2004-04-13T00:06:22

A brief electrical outage apparently caused by a bird on a power line knocked out electricity to the Los Angeles International Airport control tower and disrupted air traffic Monday morning.

Eighty to 100 flights had to hold in the air, circle or stay on the ground at other airports, Federal Aviation Administration spokesman Donn Walker said. Some departures from Los Angeles were also delayed briefly.

All flights remained in contact with the FAA, including through a facility in San Diego County that directs planes until they are about five to eight miles from Los Angles International, Walker said.

A 34.5-kilovolt supply line went out for 10 seconds at 9:38 a.m., city Department of Water and Power spokeswoman Carol Tucker said.

The bird apparently managed to ground the line, which re-energized moments later, the department said in a statement. But despite the immediate restoration of the power supply, the effect on the tower lasted longer.

All systems affected
All radar, radios and telephones — essentially everything that controllers use to communicate with aircraft and other control facilities — were hit by the outage, Walker said.

Walker said the airport allowed about 30 flights to land during the hour after the blackout, but about 40 others had to stay in the air.

Most functions came back quickly, but some important equipment remained out, including critical switching equipment that allows instantaneous communication between controllers in the Los Angeles tower and the approach control facility in San Diego County, Walker said.

The switching equipment was restored after about three hours. Had it remained out and had there been bad weather, it would have restricted instrument landings.

The airport’s ground radar also did not immediately work properly after the blackout.

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