A computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) ground all flights across the U.S. to a halt early this morning. All outbound flights were grounded until 9:30 a.m. Eastern Time (2 p.m. GMT) as the FAA worked to restore its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which alerts pilots and flight operation employees of potential hazards along a flight route, such as pockets of turbulence and airport runway closures.
As of 10 a.m., the ban was lifted, and flights progressively resumed.
Early Morning Ground Stop
The nationwide outage has left thousands of domestic flights grounded across the country, just days after a similar technical issue grounded many flights in Florida. This followed a disastrous week for the airline industry due to Winter Storm Elliott.
“I have been in touch with the FAA this morning about an outage affecting a key system for providing safety information to pilots,” tweeted Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg. “The FAA is working to resolve this issue swiftly and safely so that air traffic can resume normal operations, and will continue to provide updates.”
According to FlightAware.com, at least 1,162 flights in the U.S. have been delayed, with at least 94 canceled. Most delays and cancellations are reported to be on the East Coast.
Flights to US airports have been groundstopped by the FAA until at least 09:30 ET (1430 UTC). This means any flight not in the air already will not be allowed to depart. Image: flights over US now compared to same time last week. About 700 fewer flights airborne now. pic.twitter.com/LmXFlq0LnD
— Flightradar24 (@flightradar24) January 11, 2023
The FAA noted in a recent statement that it is working to restore the system. “We are performing final validation checks and reloading the system now. Operations across the National Airspace System are affected.”
“No Evidence of Cyberattack”
Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House Press Secretary, noted that the President has been briefed by the Secretary of Transportation and reassured that “there is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the President directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes.”
Many airports across the country have issued warnings to passengers flying today about possible delays and cancellations, including Miami (MIA), Philadelphia (PHL), Austin-Bergstrom (AUS), Kansas City (MCI), and Milwaukee (MKE).
⚠️ #TravelAlert (01/11/23) ⚠️
The @FAANews is experiencing technical issues with their communications systems. If you are traveling today, please follow up with your airline for the latest information on your flight. pic.twitter.com/YCQct0RpHL
— Miami Int’l Airport (@iflymia) January 11, 2023
Airlines have also sent out warnings to customers about the potential for disruption, including American Airlines and United. “The FAA is experiencing a nationwide system outage that affects all airlines,” said American Airlines. “We’re closely monitoring the situation and working with the FAA to minimize customer disruptions.”
According to aviation data analysts Cirium, over 21,000 flights carrying 2.9 million passengers were scheduled to depart U.S. airports today.
Flight Cancellations Should Follow
Airline analyst Henry Harteveldt believes that even though massive flight cancellations haven’t been announced, these “will start to be announced once the ground stop is lifted and airlines can better assess their operations.”
“I would not be surprised to see cancellations start to be announced for midday flights and later as airlines work to reset their operations,” said Harteveldt in a tweet.
Also, some of the major airports in the U.S. continue to have ground stops conducted by the airlines due to heavy passenger congestion inside the terminals. Delayed incoming flights could cause a domino effect, with flight crews running out of duty time and unable to operate their assigned daily schedule.
Airports continue to ask their customers to check in regularly with their airline to learn the latest status of their flights to avoid further congestion inside their terminals.
Ground Stop Lifted, Flights Resuming
By 9 a.m., the FAA allowed some flights to depart from congested airports such as Atlanta and Newark. “Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the United States following an overnight outage to the FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system that provides safety information to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted,” said the FAA.
Following the ground stop lifting, United Airlines issued a travel waiver to allow its passengers to change their travel plans with no penalties. “The FAA nationwide ground stop has been lifted, and we have begun resuming flight operations,” tweeted the airline. “Efforts are underway to minimize impacts to our customers and our operation.”
International or long-haul flights were rarely affected during this ground stop as the NOTAM system covers domestic airports, routes and weather only.
This is a developing story.