US Grounds Flights After FAA System Outage

Widespread aviation disruption in the United States after Federal Aviation Administration pilot safety system goes offline

The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ordered a temporary halt to all domestic flight departures after a system outage.

The stunning FAA order came on Wednesday after the system called “Notice to Air Missions” or NOTAMS, which provides pilots with pre-flight safety notices, went offline.

Outages affecting aviation systems do occasionally happen, but a complete aviation departure shutdown for a country the size of the US is very rare indeed.

Aircraft grounded

“The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage,” the FAA said on its website.

“The FAA has ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 am Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information,” it added.

According to CNN, commercial airline pilots use NOTAMS for real-time information on flight hazards and restrictions.

The FAA stipulates NOTAMS are not to be relied on as a sole source of information, and so some flights may be able to satisfy safety requirements by using other data.

“We are performing final validation checks and repopulating the system now,” an earlier FAA statement on Twitter stated. “Operations across the National Airspace System are affected. We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.”

The US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has also weighed in on the outage, saying he had been in touch with the FAA.

Operational delays

Meanwhile CNN quoted Airlines for America, the trade association representing US airlines, as saying the outage is “causing significant operational delays.”

United Airlines tweeted it has temporarily delayed all domestic flights and will issue an update when it hears from the FAA.

Meanwhile American Airlines tweeted it is “closely monitoring the situation, which impacts all airlines, and working with the FAA to minimize disruption to our operation and customers.”

FlightAware, which tracks delays and cancellations, reported nearly 1,304 flights to, from and within the United States as being delayed as of 3pm GMT.

UPDATE: Normal air traffic operations are slowly resuming in the US around 2pm GMT, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said.

It blamed the disruption on a “damaged database file”. It added that “at this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack”.