The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM), made headlines early on Jan. 11 when the system went down, causing a nationwide grounding of flights in the United States.
The NOTAM system provides pilots and other aviation professionals with information about potential hazards or disruptions to flight operations. NOTAMs are used to communicate information about things like closed runways, airspace restrictions, and out-of-service navigation aids.
The early morning malfunction of NOTAMs caused an interruption in the service that offers real-time reports to pilots and others in the flight industry.
This prompted a nationwide ground stop to all flights in the morning hours of Jan. 11, which lasted about an hour-and-a-half before the FAA announced it was resuming flights at 8:50 a.m. (ET).
Problems with the FAA’s warning system are significant because of the impact it can have on air traffic.
A malfunction or outage of NOTAM systems causes the FAA to stop flights to ensure safety.
In the event of a ground stop, no flights are allowed to take off from a specific airport or group of airports.
Unfortunately for travelers, the outage caused a nationwide pause in air transportation, which is an infrequent occurrence.
How NOTAM Impacts Aviation
Eric Blinderman, the senior director of communications at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, told The Epoch Times that there is no backup for the NOTAM system that can be used in case of a long-term outage, which is part of what caused the recent ground stop.
According to Blinderman, the impact is so widespread because the FAA oversees the national airspace and all operations at and around the more than 5,000 public-use airports nationwide. This could potentially cause delays that stretch into the next days or even weeks.
“All pilots should be concerned about delays. Regulations state that all pilots—commercial and private—need to be aware of all aspects of their flights, and the NOTAM system provides up-to-date information essential to all flights,” Blinderman said.
The FAA has significant control over the commercial flight industry in the United States and is responsible for regulating and overseeing all aspects of civil aviation. This includes the certification and operation of commercial airlines.
This agency also establishes and enforces regulations for the operation of commercial flights. These regulations cover; pilot qualifications and training, aircraft maintenance and inspection, air traffic control procedures, and many other aspects of aviation.
Airlines are required to comply with these regulations and are subject to regular inspections and audits by the FAA to ensure compliance.
In addition, the FAA also plays a crucial role in air traffic control, which enables the safe and efficient movement of aircraft.
It provides guidance to pilots and air traffic controllers to ensure safe distance and altitude between aircraft and efficient flight patterns.
Overall, the FAA has a broad range of powers to regulate and control the commercial flight industry. This helps to ensure that U.S. flights are operated safely and efficiently and that passengers and flight crews are protected.
Investigation Into Outage
The FAA released a statement about eight hours after the ground stop ended saying they are investigating the problems that led to the malfunction of their safety program.
“We are continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage,” the FAA said.
“Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack. We are working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again.”
However, the Department of Transportation has not ruled out “nefarious activity” as the reason behind the computer outage, as The Epoch Times previously reported.
“We’re not prepared to rule that out,” Buttigieg told MSNBC when he was asked if foul play, such as a cyberattack, was involved. “There hasn’t been any indication of that.”
Former presidential candidate Buttigieg highlighted that there is no proof that malicious actors were involved in the disruption that impacted more than 9,800 flights.
“There is no direct indication of any kind of external or nefarious activity, but we are not yet prepared to rule that out,” Buttigieg said.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre delivered a similar remark on Twitter when she said, there is “no evidence of a cyberattack.”