On January 11th, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all domestic flights in the United States due to an issue with its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. NOTAMs are important notifications for pilots, containing information on potential hazards, flight restrictions, and runway closures. The issue caused delays and cancellations for thousands of flights and even had an impact on military flights.
The FAA later reported that the system had failed due to “personnel who failed to follow procedures” damaging certain files. However, in a recent update, the agency revealed that the problem was caused by contractors working on the NOTAM system who “unintentionally deleted files” that were necessary for the system to function. The FAA stated that it has found no evidence of a cyberattack or malicious intent.
It is unclear at this point how the deletion of a few files could cause the entire system to fail. The FAA has fixed the problem and taken steps to make the system more resilient, but the incident raises concerns about the reliability of the FAA’s outdated technology. The Transportation Department had previously described the NOTAM system as “failing vintage hardware” and requested $30 million in funding for upgrades.
The incident serves as a reminder of the importance of proper procedures and the potential consequences of human error. The FAA is currently conducting an investigation to determine the exact cause of the problem and to prevent similar incidents from occurring in the future.