(RightWing.org) – Since the summer of 2022, air travelers have experienced one challenge after another. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has repeatedly promised to hold the airlines accountable for stranding passengers and causing them significant inconveniences. Yet, what happens when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is the culprit?
On Wednesday morning, January 11, the FAA issued a ground stoppage that caused a cascade of flight delays and cancellations across the country. Officials initially said the problem was a technical system outage. Now, it appears it was a simple issue that created a complex challenge.
FAA Ground Stoppage Causes Massive Delays and Cancellations — Here’s What Happened
The chaos at airports around the country occurred because a government system known as Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) failed. The failure caused airlines to cancel over 1,000 flights and delay over 6,700. By 8:40 a.m., the FAA lifted the ground stoppage and noted officials were still evaluating what caused the initial problem.
Throughout the morning, the federal agency that oversees airports and America’s skies tweeted updates. In one, the FAA noted it was safe for aircraft in the air to land. In the sixth and final tweet, the agency said it preliminarily concluded the cause was due to a damaged database file. It noted there wasn’t any evidence of a cyber attack and would take all necessary steps to ensure disruptions of this magnitude don’t happen again.
Update 6: We are continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack. (1/2)
— The FAA ✈️ (@FAANews) January 11, 2023
What Is NOTAM?
In 1947, NOTAMs were modeled after similar-style messages used to alert captains of ships at sea about hazards along their routes. Today, the language used is highly technical and hard to understand by those who don’t have experience reading them.
The FAA is primarily known as the entity which controls air traffic, but that’s only one part of safety at airports and in the sky. NOTAMs are used to alert pilots of conditions that could affect the safety of their flights in the air or on the ground. They warn aircrews about runway lighting conditions, towers that don’t have proper safety lights working, or even air shows.
Unlike the Air Traffic Control system the FAA employs, NOTAM is a nationwide program. In contrast, the systems air traffic controllers use to monitor aircraft within their air space and communicate with pilots are regional. So, if one region goes down, it only affects that one area of the country.
According to the CEO of the US Travel Association, Geoff Freeman, the NOTAM outage demonstrated the transportation system’s computer network is in need of dire upgrades. He noted travelers deserve a secure and seamless travel experience and stated the economy also depends on it.
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