F.A.A. Outage Causes Thousands of Flight Delays Wednesday Morning

The Federal Aviation Administration (F.A.A.) system that sends out real-time flight hazards and restrictions to pilots (called the Notice to Air Missions, or “NOTAM”) went down around 2:30 a.m. ET on Wednesday. This resulted in the F.A.A. pausing all domestic departures through 9 a.m. ET, causing over 4,500 flights within, into, or out of the United States to be delayed or canceled.  

According to a tweet by the Administration, the ground stop had been lifted and normal air traffic operations began resuming just prior to 9 a.m.

Twelve airports across the U.S. have reported at least 100 delayed flights this morning, according to FlightAware. Another 13 had canceled 20 or more flights. Among the most affected by delays are Atlanta, Chicago-O’Hare, Denver, New York-LaGuardia, Dallas-Fort Worth, Orlando, Charlotte, Baltimore, Washington, D.C.-Reagan National, Las Vegas-Harry Reid, Newark and Phoenix.

The New York Times reports that more than 13,000 passengers in Atlanta alone and more than 43,000 total passengers had been affected by the ground stop at the airport, according to a spokesperson for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. Atlanta and Newark are among the airports that have resumed operations, according to the F.A.A.

 The Times additionally reports that there was no evidence of a cyberattack. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg tweeted he has directed an after-action process to determine root causes of the outage.

United Airlines issued a travel waiver to allow customers the freedom to change their travel plans in light of the outage.

U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement, "Today’s FAA catastrophic system failure is a clear sign that America’s transportation network desperately needs significant upgrades. Americans deserve an end-to-end travel experience that is seamless and secure. And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system. We call on federal policymakers to modernize our vital air travel infrastructure to ensure our systems are able to meet demand safely and efficiently.”

Although unrelated, this event follows closely on the heels of Southwest canceling upwards of 60 percent of its flight before, during and after Christmas due to an outdated computer system used for crew scheduling. More than 15,000 flights had been canceled as a result.

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