The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) revealed what caused a key system to go down, triggering nationwide chaos at airports after all flights were grounded on Wednesday.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg indicated that no malign actors caused the system to go down but he told news outlets that officials cannot rule it out. However, the FAA issued a statement later Wednesday indicated that it was an internal system error.
“The FAA is continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage,” the FAA said in a statement on Wednesday night. “Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file.” It did not disclose why the database file was damaged.
“At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack,” the federal agency’s statement continued. “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.”
All flights out, in, and inside the United States were grounded for about an hour after the FAA carried out a nationwide ground stop, the first time such a move was implemented since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. According to tracking website FlightAware.com, more than 8,500 flights were delayed and well over 1,000 were canceled on Wednesday.
The cancelations and delays continued into Thursday. Data from the FlightAware website, which itself appeared to be down on Thursday morning, shows that about more than 600 flights to, from, or within the United States were delayed, while some 82 were canceled.
The system outage and widespread flight delays triggered more Republican vitriol against Buttigieg, the former mayor of a medium-sized Indiana city and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate. Since taking office, there have been questions about Buttigieg’s qualifications to lead the Department of Transportation.
“Pete Buttigieg couldn’t organize a one-car funeral,” wrote Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) on Twitter. “He was never remotely qualified for this role.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas), who recently apologized for describing GOP holdouts who did not vote for newly minted Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) as “terrorists,” sharply criticized Buttigieg.
“Today the FAA (Federal Aviation Admin) grounded all flights because of a failure in their old, outdated system,” Crenshaw wrote. “So what was [Buttigieg] doing behind-the-scenes to prevent outages like this from happening?”
Buttigieg was, according to a subsequent Crenshaw Twitter post: “making acronyms more ‘inclusive’ by renaming the NOTAM system from ‘Notice to Airmen’ to ‘Notice to Air Missions.’ I wish I was joking. Wokeism is a disease. Next time, try doing your job, Pete.”
Despite the recent criticism targeting Buttigieg, the FAA has long struggled to modernize some long-standing parts of air traffic control. A 2021 Transportation Department Office of Inspection General (OIG) report repeatedly cited challenges in the FAA’s multi-billion dollar Next Generation Air Transportation System infrastructure project.
The OIG said its work “has shown that FAA has struggled to integrate key NextGen technologies and capabilities due to extended program delays that caused ripple effect delays with other programs.”
In October, for example, the FAA said it was working to end a long-ridiculed, decades-old practice of air traffic controllers using paper flight strips to keep track of aircraft. But adopting the change at 49 major airports will take the FAA until late 2029.
The FAA has also been trying to modernize the NOTAM system “to improve the delivery of safety critical information to aviation stakeholders,” according to its website. The system provides pilots, flight crews, and other users of U.S. airspace with relevant, timely and accurate safety notices.
“There’s a great deal of work needed to reduce the backlog of sustainment work, upgrades and replacement of buildings and equipment needed to operate our nation’s airspace safely,” FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims said at the time.
In Florida, a system known as the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) used to control air traffic prompted the FAA on Jan. 2 to issue a ground stop order, slowing traffic into airports and snarling hundreds of flights. The problem with the ERAM system at a major regional air traffic control center in Miami was behind dozens of flight delays at the Miami International Airport and flights into other airports in the southern U.S. state.
Reuters contributed to this report.
From The Epoch Times