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FAA System Outage: How Does This Happen?

by Aoife O'Riordan

Jan 11, 2023

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U.S. airlines and airports experienced one of the worst shutdowns in years due to an FAA outage reported earlier this morning. The system, called NOTAMS, experienced technical problems, causing many U.S. flights to be canceled or delayed. The system is essential for pilots to receive information, such as alerts about closed runways, equipment outages and other hazards along a flight route. While air traffic controllers ensure flights at their respective airports land and take-off on time without overlap, NOTAMS is national.


As of press time, flight tracking site FlightAware revealed more than 8,116 flight delays nationwide and 1,213 U.S. flight cancellations, with the number steadily increasing over the hours. Airlines including United Airlines and American Airlines quickly released statements explaining why their flights would be halted until the FAA outage was fixed.


While still unknown if the cause of the outage points to a cyberattack of some kind, the outage affected thousands of passengers and employees. President Biden and Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg are currently in communication with the FAA to determine the cause.


The recent and massive outage leads many to wonder how something like this can happen. With great advancements in technology, how can current technology fail so many?


According to Congressman Rick Larsen (D-Wa.), the “current state of technology infrastructure at the FAA” must be examined. In other words, outdated systems might be to blame for the national outage. Larsen also noted an investigation into the causes of the outage may lead to solutions as to how to improve the system. Increased funding to ensure another outage doesn’t happen again is another possibility.


Whether the outage was unavoidable or the result of old software, the reliance of it by thousands is enough to worry many as they travel across the country. And these worries are nothing new. Just last month, Southwest Airlines suffered a major meltdown in flight operations due to outdated software, resulting in thousands of delayed or canceled flights.


For Southwest Airlines, outdated technology was to blame, but the effects on passengers and employees remained. The FAA outage this morning from technical issues now seems all too familiar. If outdated technology is the culprit, shouldn’t updating these systems take top priority?


The FAA announced at 8:50 a.m. that normal air traffic operations are gradually resuming across the country. Ground stop has been lifted and the FAA continues to look into the cause of the outage. Stay updated on the FAA’s NOTAMS statements.


Were you affected by this outage? What are your thoughts on the Southwest Airlines meltdown and now the FAA outage? What do you think could be improved? Tell us your thoughts. Email us at letters@globaltravelerusa.com. Please include your full name and location.


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