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FAA System Failure Brings Fresh Round Of Disruption To U.S. Air Travel

TravelFAA System Failure Brings Fresh Round Of Disruption To U.S. Air Travel
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FAA System Failure Brings Fresh Round Of Disruption To U.S. Air Travel

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The failure of a major federal security system on Wednesday caused massive disruptions to domestic air travel for the second time in two weeks, prompting a new round of scrutiny by lawmakers over the continued technology failures.

The Federal Aviation Administration said a preliminary investigation found a failure in a corrupt database file, but the agency is continuing to investigate the cause of the problem.

The White House and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said they do not suspect cyber attacks or other outside activity. Buttigieg said the FAA made the rare decision to ground the flight for about 90 minutes: A decision that, out of an abundance of caution, paralyzed the system for most of the day.

"It's been another busy day for the US Air Force," he told those gathered at a transportation research conference in Washington on Wednesday. Although the problems were resolved, the nation continued to see the effects of "ripples in the system."

The failure of the FAA's air mission notification (NOTAM) system comes days after a Southwest Airlines crash before Christmas that grounded flights, raising questions about whether airlines and the agencies that oversee them are doing enough to invest and modernize them. . Technological infrastructure. Lawmakers have vowed to keep an eye on the latest blackout as they begin work on a major FAA funding package this year.

The nationwide crackdown was the first since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, said Michael McCormick, a former agency official.

"It's unheard of, and then the action that the FAA had to take to stop all flights makes it even more significant," said McCormick, now a professor at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

The NOTAM system conveys warnings of potential safety hazards, such as closed runways, that an aircraft may encounter. Crews should review the message before departure.

According to an FAA bulletin, the NOTAM service failure began at 3:28 PM ET on Tuesday. The backup system started, then the primary system was rebooted before the problems reappeared, Buttigieg said.

Just before 8 p.m. Tuesday, the FAA released a bulletin saying it was activating a hotline to address the problem, asking airlines to get involved.

As of midnight Tuesday, "it was clear that there were still problems with the accuracy of information through the NOTAM system," Buttigieg said.

Around 5 a.m. Wednesday, the FAA performed a "full reset" of the system, Buttigieg said. The resolution of those efforts "hasn't been tested enough to feel comfortable" that the problems have been fully resolved, Buttigieg said.

"At that point, steps were taken to stop the ground stop until the FAA could finally confirm that the NOTAMs were filled out correctly but were actually on board the aircraft," Buttigieg said.

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The rare nationwide ground stop took place at 7:21 a.m., disrupting much of the country's commercial air travel for about 90 minutes, even as airports and airlines struggled with remaining cargo for hours.

President Biden, who was aware of the failures in the FAA system, ordered the Transportation Department to investigate their causes, White House press secretary Karin Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. Congress has promised to address these issues when the FAA funding hearings begin.

Wednesday's problems came amid efforts to modernize the system and address other problems that have cropped up over the years. The FAA is in the midst of a yearlong effort to improve its pilot alert system, saying it has consolidated information in one place and streamlined the process of getting computer data.

"In short, no notum, no flight," the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said in a statement. "Everyone involved in this problem understands that systems and technology need to be updated."

Buttigieg said the FAA's safety systems must be constantly updated and improved.

"The FAA now has a number of processes in place to ensure these systems remain current," he said. "It was a big deal, obviously before, and since I came into this role."

Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.), the chairwoman of the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, earlier announced plans to hold a bankruptcy hearing on Southwest Airlines, which forced the company to cancel more than 16,000 flights between Dec. 21 and December 21. December. Canceled on December 31st. Cantwell said Wednesday that the committee will look into what led to the FAA's bankruptcy.

"We will look at what caused these outages and what role redundancy will play in preventing future outages," he said.

Reputation. Rick Larsen (R-Wash.), chairman of his panel on the House Transportation Committee, said he spoke with Buttigieg on Wednesday and that he "will continue to monitor this disruption to our air transportation system until is resolved".

Two top Republican lawmakers have vowed to hold the FAA accountable and reform it.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), the top Republican who sits on the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee, which oversees the FAA, said the agency's " failure to maintain a safety-critical system is completely unacceptable and the latest example of dysfunction in the Department of Transport".

House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-Mad.) vowed to bring those responsible to justice.

Robert Mann, an aviation consultant, said a key question for Congress as it deals with FAA legislation this year — a process that typically takes place every few years — is how the government can modernize its systems and help the nation cope . . He said the FAA's overreliance on outdated technology, a problem also responsible for the Southwest disaster.

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"They can't keep doing what they've always done," Mann said. "Many of these systems have decades of hardware and software."

NAV Canada, the country's air traffic control provider, said it affected the newly issued natams for about three hours until 10:20 a.m. Eastern Time begins. Spokeswoman Vanessa Adams said the lawsuit is being investigated, but they do not believe it is related to the FAA case.

"The mitigation is done to support ongoing operations," Adams said, adding that Canada had not issued an order to stop flights from taking off.

Although flights to the US resumed on Wednesday, delays were felt throughout the system. According to the website FlightAware, more than 1,300 flights to and from the US were canceled and nearly 10,000 were delayed.

American Airlines said the carrier had canceled about 400 flights and the FAA delayed 850 flights because of the problem.

The glitch prevented the airline from issuing flight plans or fuel documents, according to a memo released Wednesday by American Airlines' director of flight operations. A note sent later that day noted that he had encountered difficulties booking accommodation for crew members.

The split in the FAA's notification system also comes after the agency has been without a Senate-confirmed chief for nearly a year.

President Biden nominated Philip Washington, chief executive of Denver International Airport, to lead the agency after his former administrator retired midway through a five-year term last spring. The Senate Commerce Committee did not hold a hearing or vote on Washington's nomination last year.

He has faced scrutiny over reports of possible ties to an investigation in Los Angeles involving the city's transportation agency, which he previously led, and questions about whether he has enough aviation experience after spending more time in time in transit as a career.

Wednesday's problems could also heighten tensions between the airlines and the Department of Transportation, which last summer disputed the reasons for delays and cancellations over the responsibility of air traffic controllers. McCormick said the failure would cause airlines to question the reliability of the FAA's infrastructure.

Some industry leaders point to the system's failure as another example of the need to modernize the nation's airspace oversight agency.

"Today's catastrophic failure of the FAA system is a clear indication that America's transportation network is in need of major improvement," said Jeff Freeman, president and CEO of the US Travel Association. "Americans deserve a smooth and safe end-to-end travel experience."

The problem made for a rough start to the day for many commuters.

Don Cleary, president of Canada Marriott Hotels, was scheduled to board an Air Canada flight from Washington to Toronto at 9:30 a.m. for an afternoon meeting. Instead, he was working on his laptop at Reagan National Airport, checking airline apps to see if the Air Canada flight from Toronto would depart before the American flight from upstate New York. This will show which of them is likely to arrive and leave Washington first, with him on board.

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Because her Air Canada flight was delayed, she booked another ticket on American as a backup. Meanwhile, at 09:30, he was looking out the terminal window and watching the runway as the planes taxied. It was a promising sign, but he said he would not be optimistic until one of his two flights took off. His afternoon meeting has already been postponed to Thursday.

"I'm supposed to go today, but I expect it's going to be delayed," said Cleary, a Bethesda resident who flies to Canada almost every week. “Disaster… This is my first trip in a year. It didn't start well."

Doug and Lynn Fuchs, both professors at Vanderbilt University, sat on the baggage carousel at National so Lynn could work on her laptop. They just booked their 11:35am Southwest flight, which was about 15 minutes late, to Nashville for 6:00am on Thursday. They said they believed there was a good chance their original flight was canceled due to delays across the country.

"We decided to cut our losses," Doug Fuchs said as they prepared to return to their home in D.C. "We didn't want to spend all day at the airport."

Those whose trips have been canceled may be out of luck seeking compensation other than a ticket refund.

Carriers said cancellations and delays related to Wednesday's outage could continue into Thursday, but barring further problems, they expect normal operations on Friday.

Unlike Southwest's flight disruptions, which were largely caused by airline failures, Wednesday's flight cancellations and delays were not the fault of any airline. As a result, carriers only have to take customers to their final destination or refund them if they choose not to take the re-used flight.

After a ground stop near Baltimore-Washington Marshall International Airport, the pilots began asking air traffic controllers for directions. The pilot asked if the situation was resolved at 9:02 a.m., according to a source on LiveATC.net. "No, not everything is fine, but we are letting some of them go," answered the conductor.

A few minutes later, another pilot on the radio: "What a morning."

Natalie B. Compton Compton Aaron C. Davis Davis Annabelle and Timothy Bella Bella Report Contributing Contributing Contributing

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