A Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer glitch has caused chaos at airports up and down the United States today. Although the situation is now resolved, delays and cancellations are set to continue this afternoon due to a severe backlog in flights.
The issue is related to the Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) system, which alerts pilots when hazards are on their flight path. As soon as the system went down, the FAA announced that all flights would be grounded until 09:00 Eastern time.
Flights have resumed over the past couple of hours, although over 5800 flights in and out of US airports have been delayed today. As airports look to get aircraft moving swiftly out of crowded gates, further delays and cancellations are guaranteed nationwide.
The FAA has released the following statement:
“Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the US 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.”
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Cyber Attack Speculation
When the news was announced this morning, speculation instantly began about the possibility of a cyber attack on the United States. Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre confirmed earlier that US President, Joe Bide, had been briefed on the outage and said there was no evidence of a cyberattack.
Biden, who has ordered the US Department of Transport to conduct a full investigation into the root of the problem, had said this to reporters earlier in the day when flights were grounded:
“Aircraft can still land safely, just not take off right now. They don’t know what the cause of it is. They expect in a couple of hours they’ll have a good sense of what caused it and will respond at that time.”
Biden also confirmed that he had spoken to Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg about the situation. He has told Buttigieg to report to him directly when his department gets to the bottom of the issue.
Buttigieg himself has been busy in talks all day with the FAA. For him, the key to getting flights back up in the air was to ensure passenger safety. If the glitch couldn’t have been resolved with that in mind, all flights would still be grounded.
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The Response From Airlines
It’s been a manic day, to say the least, for US airlines across the country, but especially on the east coast, where the issue has had the most impact. American Airlines, the most popular airline in the US, have said they are in direct talks with the FAA to minimize disruption to their planned flights.
Other US airlines have gone further and offered affected passengers compensation. United Airlines have said it will waive change fees and any price difference in fare fees for passengers looking to rearrange flights in the next five days.
Air Canada has suggested that they follow suit for any passengers on cross-border flights affected today, saying that they will announce a “goodwill policy” in due course.
Over in Europe, delays are expected from major airports in France, the United Kingdom, Germany, and Spain for flights going across the Atlantic, although no cancellations should occur.