An outage to the US Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system led to thousands of cancelled and delayed flights within, into and out of the United States.
According to FlightAware, a flight tracking website, 10,103 flights have been delayed and an additional 1,343 flights have been cancelled as of 9:20 PM EST Wednesday.
Yahoo News is reporting that the systems failures were the result of a mistake that occurred during routine scheduled systems maintenance.
A senior official familiar with the internal review told Yahoo News that an engineer “replaced one file with another,” and not realizing the mistake was being made.
Meanwhile, Department of Transportation secretary Pete Buttigeig said the cause of the outage was a likely corrupt file that was also found in the backup system.
CNN reported that the FAA had tried to reboot the NOTAM system early Wednesday morning. The systems issue prevented filing updated safety notices that warn pilots of hazards like poor weather, runway closures and construction. At this point, the FAA determined it was necessary to ground flights throughout the country until it could be resolved.
Corrupted files were discovered in the main system and a backup system, although, the FAA eliminated the possibility of a cyberattack early as they had not seen signs of one.
“The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again,” the FAA said in a statement Wednesday.
What the NOTAM system is
The NOTAM system provides pilots with essential information before takeoff, such as weather in route and real-time safety alerts during flight. The system is checked prior to departure and without receiving information from NOTAM, pilots can’t take off. NOTAMs also is separate from the air traffic control system that keeps planes safely away from each other in the sky.
Despite the failure, the system is not out-of-date with White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre telling reporters that NOTAM is “continuously being updated.” IT and engineering teams are currently working to ensure the system doesn’t crash again while also trying to figure out if there are any systems that could fail without redundancies.
In addition, Canada’s NOTAM system was disrupted Wednesday and the FAA sought to determine if there was a connection to the US system going down. However, Canada did not have to initiate a ground stop as its system had backups and returned to normal faster than the US’ system.