US Air Traffic In Disarray After Computer Systems Malfunction

This Wednesday (01.11.2023), thousands of flights in the United States were canceled or delayed due to a computer failure that forced the United States civil aviation regulator (FAA) to temporarily suspend all domestic flight departures.

The failure, which began Tuesday night, affected a crucial information system for pilots and crews. To ensure air safety, the FAA decided to block all domestic flights from taking off until 9:00 am (14:00 GMT) on the East Coast, with exceptions.

The suspension lasted about an hour and a half, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told MSNBC. Operations gradually resumed. According to FlightAware at 20:30 GMT, more than 1,300 flights were canceled and more than 8,600 were delayed.

The FAA claims to have acted out of caution and concluded, after a preliminary investigation, that the outage was due to a corrupted database file. The Notice To Air Missions (NOTAM) system, affected by the breakdown, is used to transmit crucial information to crews.

Senator Maria Cantwell warned that a committee will examine the causes of the incident. US Tourism Association blamed the FAA for having a “desperate need of major upgrade”. Several Republican politicians criticized the FAA, including Senator Ted Cruz who called for the appointment of an “experienced leader” to head the agency.

The FAA remains without a chief executive since Steve Dickson’s resignation at the end of March 2021. The White House proposed in July to replace him with Phillip Washington, but there has yet to be a congressional hearing, preventing him from taking the job.

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