FAA Clears Flights to Depart After Hours-Long Ground Stop

The Notice to Air Missions System failed on Tuesday night
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 11, 2023 8:30 AM CST
FAA Clears Flights to Depart After Hours-Long Ground Stop
Steve Gasser of Chicago looks at flight information screen at Chicago's Midway Airport that reflects the flight delays stemming from a computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration that brought flights to a standstill across the U.S. Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Chicago.   (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

The FAA is lifting a ground stop on flights across the US following a computer outage early Wednesday that resulted in thousands of delays and hundreds of cancellations at airports nationwide. The FAA ordered all departing flights grounded early Wednesday, but lifted that order just before 9am Eastern after several hours. However, delays and cancellations continue to snowball. More than 3,700 flights were delayed and more than 640 were cancelled. That's about a fifth of the more than 21,000 flights that were scheduled to take off in the US on Wednesday.

While the White House initially said that there is no evidence of a cyberattack, President Biden said "we don’t know" and told reporters he’s directed the Department of Transportation to investigate the cause, reports the AP. The outage took down the Notices to Air Missions System, which pilots are required to consult before departing to learn about potential adverse impacts on flights, from runway construction to the potential for icing.

According FAA advisories, the NOTAM system failed at 8:28pm Eastern on Tuesday preventing new or amended notices from being distributed to pilots. The FAA resorted to a telephone hotline in an effort to keep departures flying overnight, but as daytime traffic picked up it overwhelmed the telephone backup system. US military flights were not impacted because the military has its own NOTAM system. Breakdowns in the NOTAM system appear to be rare. "I don’t ever remember the NOTAM system going down like this. I’ve been flying 53 years," said John Cox, a former airline pilot and now an aviation-safety consultant.

(Read more FAA stories.)

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