Flights grounded nationwide after key FAA computer system fails


U.S. airlines slowly resumed normal operations Wednesday after the Federal Aviation Administration lifted an order grounding thousands of domestic flights after a crucial computer safety system failed.

More than 7,300 flights were delayed, according to FlightAware, an airline tracking service. 

The FAA ordered a ground stop – a nationwide pause on domestic departures – after its NOTAM, or Notice to Air Mission, system failed early Wednesday. The FAA uses the system to alert pilots to potential flight hazards. 

The disruption was considered a “major safety issue,” CBS reported.

The system failed to process new information early Wednesday and crashed, requiring a hard restart at 2 a.m., officials said. The department is investigating the failure; officials said there is no evidence of a cyberattack.

Flight delays and cancellations

NOTAM is separate from air traffic control systems. It’s an online system used by pilots and airports, and the FAA says it contains real-time safety information that can be more quickly communicated than by other means.

Information includes items such as military flights, runway closures or other obstructions, bird hazards and numerous other obstacles, Reuters reported.

The system is considered essential to flight planning. Pilots are expected to consult the NOTAM system before every flight.

A flurry of flight delays

A sequence of live maps on FlightAware’s MiseryMap feature captured Wednesday morning showed the effect on domestic flights around the country. These maps show the increase in delays and cancellations out of New York City:

President Joe Biden has ordered the FAA to investigate the failure. A Senate panel is also planning its own review.

An animation captured by Flightradar24 shows air traffic between 5 a.m. and 10:30 a.m. EST Wednesday.


SOURCE USA TODAY Network reporting and research; Associated Press; FlightAware MiseryMap; Federal Aviation Administration; Flightradar24




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