Flights grounded latest: 7,000 US flights cancelled or delayed over FAA outage

Planes turn back to airports as trackers show all US-based flights

The Federal Aviation Administration has lifted its suspension of all domestic flight departures from the US following a major IT failure.

A key system used to notify pilots and ground crew of hazards and alerts suffered a “major failure” earlier today, as FAA engineers frantically scrambled to fix it after the outage prompted a national shutdown.

The fault was in the NOTAM (Notification for Air Missions) system, which keeps pilots and other airport staff informed of aviation hazards and airport facilities.

It stopped processing information this morning, forcing the temporary suspension of flights.

However, in its latest statement, the FAA said the ground stop has been “achieved”.

“Normal air traffic operations are gradually resuming across the United States following an overnight disruption to the FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system that provides safety information to flight crews,” he said.

“The agency continues to look into the cause of the initial problem.”

Airlines are now struggling to get operations back on track with more than 6,000 flight delays and more than 1,000 cancellations at airports across the US, according to FlightAware.


Which airlines and airports are worst hit by the delay?

Major airlines, from most to least affected: Southwest (46 percent of delayed flights), American Airlines (34 percent), Delta (33 percent), Spirit (32 percent), United (29 percent), and JetBlue (both 25 percent). Airlines focused on the west coast such as Alaska and Hawaiian show moderate numbers of delays because the outage occurred at a time when they had fewer scheduled flights.

The worst delayed airports are Baltimore (with 45 percent of flights delayed); LaGuardia (39 percent); Chicago Midway (39 percent); William P Hobby of Houston, Tampa and Orlando (35 percent); and Atlanta and Detroit (34 percent).

Airports with one-third to one-quarter of flights delayed: Nashville, St. Louis, Austin, Kansas City, Dallas Love Field, Reagan National, New Orleans, Denver, Fort Lauderdale, Dallas Fort-Worth, Houston Bush, Charlotte, Sacramento, Chicago O’Hare, Miami, Las Vegas, JFK New York, and Minneapolis.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 17:00


What is NOTAM and what happened?

The outage showed how dependent the US is on air travel, and how dependent air travel is on an antiquated computer system called the Notice to Air Mission System, or NOTAM.

Before taking off, pilots must consult NOTAMs, which list potential negative impacts on flights, from runway construction to the potential for icing. The system used to be phone-based, with pilots calling dedicated flight service stations to get the information, but it has moved online.

According to FAA advisors, the NOTAM system failed at 8:28pm ET on Tuesday to prevent distribution of new or revised notices to pilots. The FAA resorted to a telephone hotline to keep an event flying overnight, but as daytime traffic piled up it overwhelmed the telephone backup system.

The FAA ordered all departure flights grounded early Wednesday morning, disrupting all passenger and shipping flights.

Some medical flights could be cleared and the outage did not affect any military operations or mobility.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 16:45


Ted Cruz: FAA needs a proven leader with substantial aviation experience

Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, the top Republican on the Senate committee that oversees transportation, has issued a statement demanding an explanation from the administration for today’s air traffic failure.

“The FAA’s inability to keep an important safety system up and running is completely unacceptable and just the latest example of dysfunction within the Department of Transportation,” said Mr. Cruz.

“The administration needs to explain to Congress what happened, and Congress should enact amendments to this year’s FAA reauthorization legislation,” he continued.

Taking aim at Phillip Washington, the Biden administration’s nominee to criticize the FAA for not having enough aviation experience, the senator said: “This incident also shows why the public needs a competent, proven leader with substantial aviation experience in charge of the FAA. .”

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 16:28


US Travel Association calls for federal action on FAA failure

US Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman released the following statement regarding the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) system failure following this morning’s mass delays and flight cancellations.

The catastrophic failure of today’s FAA system is a clear sign that America’s transportation network is in dire need of significant upgrades. Americans deserve a seamless and secure end-to-end travel experience. And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system. We call on federal policymakers to modernize our critical air travel infrastructure to ensure our systems can meet demand safely and efficiently.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 16:10


Total flight delays in the US today: 6,477

Total flight cancellations in the US today: 1,021

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 16:04


There is no evidence of a cyber attack, the report says

A senior law enforcement official has told NBC News that the FBI has seen no evidence that this morning’s outage and thousands of flights were caused by a cyber attack.

The cyber security expert network states that the most common cause of such problems is a bad software update.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 16:02


FAA currently without a leader

The Federal Aviation Administration is currently without a permanent leader as President Joe Biden’s pick to lead the agency did not receive a confirmation hearing before the Senate last year due to concerns about his aviation experience and ties to a public corruption investigation. The New York Times reports.

Last week, Mr. Biden renominated Phillip Washington, the current chief executive of Denver International Airport.

The FAA has been without a permanent leader since March 2021 when former Delta Air Lines executive and Trump nominee Stephen Dickson stepped down midway through a five-year term.

The FAA is being led on an interim basis by Billy Nolen, the agency’s chief safety officer.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 15:45


How many flights are delayed?

According to FlightAware, as of 10am ET this morning, the total delay in, into, or out of the United States today is 5,417 flights. 900 flights have also been cancelled.

By airline in descending order of worst affected: Southwest (44 percent of flights delayed), American Airlines (26 percent), Delta (24 percent), and United and JetBlue ( 22 percent both). Airlines focused on the west coast such as Alaska and Hawaiian show moderate numbers of delays because the outage occurred at a time when they had fewer scheduled flights.

The airports worst affected by delays are Baltimore (46 percent of delayed flights), Chicago Midway (40 percent), Houston’s William P Hobby (33 percent), Tampa (32 percent), and Orlando (30 percent).

Delays range from 25-29 percent of flights at Atlanta, Dallas Love Field, St. Louis, Reagan National, LaGuardia, Nashville, Austin, Fort Lauderdale, and New Orleans.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 15:30


Buttigieg promises to learn the ‘root cause’ of the problem

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg has promised to find “the root cause” of this morning’s air traffic problems.

He tweeted: “The FAA has determined that the safety system affected by the overnight outage has been fully overhauled, and the national ground stop will be lifted immediately. I have guided a post-action process to determine root causes and recommend next steps.”

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 15:20


How are the airlines responding?

With the ground stop lifted and normal air traffic operations resuming, the focus is now on how well airlines and airports can get operations up and running on schedule.

Airlines are warning that customers will see some delays, with JetBlue warning that airports are busier than usual as the backlog clears.

Delta promises more updates as they become available, and American Airlines appears to be fielding inquiries via direct message as phone lines are overwhelmed and passengers struggle to rebook with the app.

United has issued a travel waiver to allow those affected by the grounding the flexibility to change their travel plans.

Oliver Connell11 January 2023 15:04


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