Flights across US delayed after FAA system outage

Travelers wait in the terminal after flights were delayed and canceled due to FAA shutdowns.
Travelers wait in the terminal after flights were delayed and canceled due to FAA shutdowns. (Photo Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty)

When air traffic control officials realized they had a computer problem late Tuesday, they came up with a plan: Restart the system when it’s less likely to disrupt air travel. on Wednesday morning.

In the end, that plan and the outage led to Massive flight delays and an unprecedented order to stop all plane departures nationwidea source familiar with the operation of the Federal Aviation Administration told CNN.

FAA officials told reporters early Wednesday that the problems developed at 3 p.m. ET on Tuesday.

Officials eventually found a corrupt file in the Main Notice for Airborne Missions, or NOTAM, the source said. A corrupt file was also found in the backup system. NOTAM is a huge and important safety computer system that advises pilots on issues along the route and at their destination. It has a backup, which officials turned to when there was a problem with the main system, according to the source.

During the overnight hours from Tuesday to Wednesday, FAA officials decided to shut down and restart the main NOTAM system — an important decision because the restart could take about 90 minutes, according to the source. .

They decided to do the restart early Wednesday before air traffic starts flying over the East Coast to minimize disruption to flights.

“They thought they were going to be ahead of their time,” the source said.

During the process, the FAA told reporters the system “is starting to come back online,” but said it would take time to resolve.

The system, according to the source, “is back up and running, but it doesn’t give out all the pertinent information needed for a safe flight and it looks like it’s taking longer to do so.”

That’s when the FAA issued a nationwide stopover at around 7:30 a.m. ET, halting all domestic departures. Planes lined up for take-off are held before entering the runway. Flights that have taken off have been verbally notified by air traffic controllers of the safety notices, who keep an electronic or static paper record at their desks of the announcements in action.

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg ordered a review of the action and said there was “no direct evidence or indication” that the problem was a cyber attack.

The source said the NOTAMS system was an example of aging infrastructure that had to be overhauled.

“Due to budgetary concerns and budget flexibility, the refresh of this technology has been postponed,” the source said. “I suppose now they’ll actually find the money to do it.”

“FAA infrastructure is not just brick and mortar.”

The FAA did not immediately respond to CNN’s request for comment on the account.


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