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News, January 2023
US Airports Are Back to Life, FAA Computer System Restored, After Outage that Halted All Domestic Flights
January 11, 2022
FAA system restored after outage that halted all domestic flight departures in the U.S.
The FAA said that the ground stop had been lifted at around 8:50 a.m. and that normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually while it continued to look into the cause of the problem.
By Jay Blackman, Chantal Da Silva, Ken Dilanian and Marlene Lenthang
Flights across the United States were brought to a standstill Wednesday morning after the Federal Aviation Administration suffered a computer outage, forcing it to halt all departures nationwide while it worked to resolve the issue.
The FAA announced that the ground stop had been lifted at around 8:50 a.m. and that normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually while it continued to look into the cause of the problem. But delays and cancellations had already spread across the country after the agency said its Notice to Air Missions, or NOTAM, system had "failed."
More than 5,400 flights within, to and out of the U.S. were delayed as of around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the online flight tracker FlightAware. More than 940 flights were listed as canceled.
The FAA had said in a tweet just before 7:20 a.m. that it was ordering airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET “to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information" as it worked to restore the NOTAM system.
In subsequent updates, it said that all flights in the sky were safe to land.
“Pilots check the NOTAM system before they fly. A Notice to Air Missions alerts pilots about closed runways, equipment outages, and other potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight,” the FAA said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet that there was "no evidence of a cyberattack at this point," and added that President Joe Biden had directed the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation into the causes. She added: “The FAA will provide regular updates.”
A senior law enforcement official told NBC News the FBI was seeing no evidence that a cyberattack caused the outage. Cyber security experts say the most common cause of problems like this is a bad software update. The cause of Wednesday's incident is still unclear, however.
“Today’s FAA catastrophic system failure is a clear sign that America’s transportation network desperately needs significant upgrades," U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement Wednesday. "Americans deserve an end-to-end travel experience that is seamless and secure. And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system.
"We call on federal policymakers to modernize our vital air travel infrastructure to ensure our systems are able to meet demand safely and efficiently," he said.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet that he had "been in touch with FAA this morning about an outage affecting a key system for providing safety information to pilots."
United Airlines said earlier it had temporarily delayed all domestic flights. It said it would issue an update when it learned more from the FAA about the situation.
Southwest Airlines said it was "closely monitoring" the situation and that it "may impact the start of operations" Wednesday.
"An FAA system outage is causing ground stops at AUS and other airports across the country," the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said in a tweet.
"Arriving & departing passengers can expect delays this morning & through the day," it said, adding: "Please stay in contact with your airline & check your flight status before heading to AUS."
Flights over the United States at 7 a.m. ET Wednesday. Flight Aware
The news came after a number of social media users said they had been affected by the situation.
Heather Allen, 32, was meant to fly from New York City to Seattle with her fiancé to visit her family for a delayed holiday visit. She was watching a movie on her plane and still on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she and other passengers were told to get off their Delta Airlines flight.
She said she learned of the outage by reading the news on Twitter and had been on the plane for about an hour before she had to deplane.
“Trying to be patient, but feeling frustrated,” Allen said. She said the situation at the airport was “not currently chaotic, but could be if delays are longer.”
The issue also appeared to have affected some flights to the U.S.
A number of airports outside the U.S. said operations were continuing as normal, but the international airport operator Aéroports de Paris, or Airports of Paris, said all flights by American airline companies had been delayed. It said non-American airlines were flying out as normal without interruption.
Air France said all of its U.S.-bound flights were operating as planned and were not affected by the FAA computer outage. It said it continued to monitor the situation.
"As far as we are aware, we are still operating to/from the U.S. at the moment," a spokesperson for Gatwick Airport in London said.
A spokesperson for Frankfurt Airport in Germany said the FAA outage had not affected its operations.
This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.
U.S. airports rumble back to life after FAA computer outage
WASHINGTON, Jan 11, 2023 (Reuters) -
U.S. flights were slowly beginning to resume departures and a ground stop was lifted after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) scrambled to fix a system outage overnight that had forced a halt to all U.S. departing flights.
The cause of the problem with a pilot-alerting system, which delayed thousands of flights in the United States, was unclear, but U.S. officials said they had so far found no evidence of a cyberattack.
The outage occurred at a historically slow time for U.S. travel after the December holiday travel season, but airlines have said demand remains strong as travel continues to recover to near pre-pandemic levels.
"Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the U.S. following an overnight outage to the Notice to Air Missions system that provides safety info to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem," the FAA Tweeted.
The number of flights impacted continued to steadily rise even after the ground stop was canceled. One issue airlines are facing is trying to get planes in and out of crowded gates, which is causing further delays.
More than 5,400 flights had been delayed and 900 canceled according to the FlightAware website as officials said it will take hours to recover from the halt to flights.
The FAA had earlier ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures after its pilot alerting system crashed and the agency had to perform a hard reset around 2 a.m., officials said.
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The FAA is expected to implement a ground delay program in order to address the backlog of flights halted for hours. Flights already in the air had been allowed to continue to their destinations during the ground stop.
U.S. President Joe Biden ordered the Transportation Department to investigate the outage and said the cause of the failure was unknown at this time. Asked if a cyber attack was behind the outage, Biden told reporters at the White House, "We don't know."
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged a "process to determine root causes and recommend next steps."
Chicago-based United said it has resumed operations, but warned customers might continue to see some delays and cancellations.
Shares of U.S. carriers initially fell in Wednesday's premarket trading, but most rallied after the market opened to positive territory as flights resumed.
Southwest Airlines (LUV.N) was down 0.17%, while Delta Air Lines Inc (DAL.N), United Airlines (UAL.O) and American Airlines (AAL.O) were up 1.1%, 1.5% and 0.4%, respectively. JetBlue (JBLU.O) also gained.
A trade group representing the U.S. travel industry, including airlines, called the FAA system failure "catastrophic."
"America’s transportation network desperately needs significant upgrades," Geoff Freeman, president of the U.S. Travel Association, said in a statement. "We call on federal policymakers to modernize our vital air travel infrastructure.”
Senate Commerce Committee chair Maria Cantwell said the panel would investigate. “We will be looking into what caused this outage and how redundancy plays a role in preventing future outages," she said. "The public needs a resilient air transportation system."
FAA's system outage comes weeks after an operational meltdown at Southwest at the end of last year left thousands of passengers stranded.
A severe winter storm right before Christmas, coupled with the Texas-based carrier's dated technology, led to over 16,000 flight cancellations last month.
The DOT, FAA's parent agency, criticized Southwest's failures and pressured the airline to compensate passengers. There is no legal requirement that the FAA must compensate passengers for flight delays caused by agency computer issues.
A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means. A ground stop is an air traffic control measure that slows or halts aircraft at a given airport.
Information can go up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights and may include items such as runway closures, bird hazard warnings and construction obstacles.
United Airlines (UAL.O) said it had temporarily delayed all domestic flights and would issue an update when it learned more from the FAA.
Germany's Lufthansa and Air France both said they were continuing to operate flights to and from the United States, while the French airline said it was monitoring the situation.
Earlier this month, a problem with a different airline computer control system delayed dozens of flights in Florida.
A total of 21,464 flights are scheduled to depart airports in the United States on Wednesday with a capacity of nearly 2.9 million passengers, data from Cirium shows.
American Airlines has the most departures from U.S. airports with 4,819 flights scheduled, followed by Delta and Southwest, Cirium data showed.
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Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Shepardson in Washington, Abhijith Ganapavaram in Bengaluru, Jamie Freed in Sydney and Rajesh Kumar Singh in Chicago; Additional reporting by Nathan Gomes and Steve Holland in Washington Writing by Shailesh Kuber and Alexander Smith Editing by Edmund Blair and Nick Zieminski
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