By Kevin Zhang
Thousands of flights across the U.S. were delayed Wednesday after a Federal Aviation Administration pilot alert system failed overnight, causing a nationwide halt on flights.
The FAA lifted the ground stop on departing flights around 9 a.m. ET as it worked on fixing the Notice to Air Missions system, which serves to notify pilots regarding closed runways, hazards, and other information.
The FAA’s outage was the second major air travel disruption in less than a month, and drew bipartisan criticism. Winter storms in late December served to place a halt on significant amounts of holiday travel across the U.S., not to mention a crisis at Southwest Airlines after it buckled from too many schedule changes.
The NOTAM system failed at 3:28 p.m. on Tuesday, according to an FAA notice. The issue resulted from a corrupted system file, according to experts. The FAA thought the problem was resolved, but wasn’t according to officials. The agency decided to reboot the system altogether on Wednesday morning and ordered a ground stop, which delays planes scheduled for departure. The NOTAM system does have a backup, but both the primary and backup systems had apparently been fed with corrupted data.
Transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg said he has “directed an after-action process to determine root causes and recommend next steps”.
More than 9,500 U.S. flights were delayed as of 4:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday, according to online flight tracker FlightAware. Residual delays from the ground stop worsened throughout the day due to backups.
More than 1,300 U.S. flights were canceled on Wednesday. There were more than 23,000 flights scheduled to, from and within the U.S.
Transportation Secretary Buttigieg briefed President Joe Biden on the outage.