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FAA In Hot Water After Thousands of Flight Cancellations

FAA In Hot Water After Thousands of Flight Cancellations

More than 4,000 flights were delayed and more than 600 others were canceled as of Wednesday morning following an outage that lasted for more than an hour to the system that disseminates information to pilots, such as issues with other aviation systems, upcoming events with the potential to disrupt traffic such as planned military exercises or blockages on airport runways.

The system first began failing at 2 a.m. Eastern time, and the FAA ordered a halt to all domestic flights until 9 a.m.

Flights across the United States resumed Wednesday morning, several hours after the Federal Aviation Administration suffered a computer outage that forced it to halt all departures nationwide while it scrambled to resolve the issue.

America’s airspace shut down for several hours Wednesday morning following a glitch in a computer system used to send alerts to pilots.

A corrupted file affected both the primary and backup system, a senior government official said Wednesday evening, adding that officials continue to investigate.

“The FAA is continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage,” the agency said in a statement. “Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack.”

Biden addressed the FAA issue on Wednesday before leaving the White House. He said he had just been briefed by Buttigieg, who told him they still had not identified what went wrong.

“I just spoke to Buttigieg. They don’t know what the cause is. But I was on the phone with him about 10 minutes,” Biden said. “I told him to report directly to me when they find out. Air traffic can still land safely, just not take off right now. We don’t know what the cause of it is.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said earlier in the day that officials had not completely ruled out the possibility of a cyberattack, but so far “there is no direct indication of any kind of external or nefarious activity.”

Mayhem at the Airports

The delays came just weeks after Southwest Airlines caused travel chaos by canceling more than 2,500 of its flights during the Christmas season.

Almost 9,600 flights have been delayed so far and over 1,300 canceled, according to FlightAware, in the first national grounding of flights in about two decades. The total number of flights disrupted topped 10,900.

Buttigieg’s Department of Transportation (DOT) is requiring six airlines to pay $600 million in refunds to “hundreds of thousands of customers who had been denied them,” NPR reported.

Additionally, the DOT is assessing $7.5 million in fines against the six airlines. Interestingly, only one of the airlines is based in the U.S. — Frontier Airlines. The five others, which follow, are foreign: Air India, TAP Portugal, El Al Israel, Aeromexico, and Avianca (a Colombian airline).

According to the FAA’s website, NOTAM, which started in 1947, communicates “information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations, but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means.”

September 11, 2001

Many industry officials compared the grounding to what occurred after the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.

The airline industry has slowly begun to resume service after a Federal Aviation Administration system outage caused thousands of flight delays and cancellations across the United States.

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1 Comment

  1. frank stetson

    I wonder if a corrupted file if an act of God or malfeasance? Given the penalties and legal actions sounds like malfeasance is suggested. NOTAM, the failed system, has never failed like this before. It has been operating since 1947, obviously with technology upgrades. I am not 100% sure, but think the NOTAM system is owned and operated by the FAA, ie the government. How we are penalizing the airlines would seem weird if that’s the case.

    Sounds like another investigation! Remember the good ole days when it was just Russia, The BIg Lie, and Mar A Loser-Gate. So much to investigate, two-years little time……