US flight delays: Thousands grounded due to computer failure

Important points
  • More than 6,000 flights were delayed and almost 1,000 were canceled.
  • Even after the ground stop was lifted, the number of flights affected increased.
  • US President Joe Biden commissioned the Department of Transportation to investigate.
Flights to the United States are slowly resuming departures and a ground stop was lifted after the Federal Aviation Administration struggled to repair a system failure that had grounded all departing flights.
According to the FlightAware website, more than 6,000 flights were delayed and nearly 1,000 canceled as officials said it will take hours to recover from the disruption. The numbers kept rising.
The cause of the problem with a pilot warning system was unclear, but US officials said they had found no evidence of a cyberattack so far.
The outage came at a typically slow time after the holiday travel season, but demand remains strong as travel continues to recover to near pre-pandemic levels.

“Following an overnight outage of the Notice to Air Missions system, which provides flight crews with safety information, normal flight operations in the US are gradually resuming. The ground ban has been lifted. We continue to investigate the cause of the initial problem.” The FAA tweeted.

Even after the ground stop was lifted, the number of flights affected increased.
One problem airlines face is trying to get planes in and out of crowded gates, causing further delays.
At an airport in Greenville, South Carolina, Justin Kennedy cut short a work trip to nearby Charlotte.
He said there was confusion because airline staff didn’t know what the FAA was saying and many passengers were initially unaware of the delays.
“I was sitting in a Chick-fil-A dining area that had a good view of the TSA exit,” said the 30-year-old IT worker.

“I saw at least four people running to the gates thinking they were going to miss their flight, only to return to the food court out of breath.”

FAA system outage causes nationwide early morning flight halts

Thousands of flights across the US are gradually resuming after the Federal Aviation Administration suffered an early morning failure of the Notice to Air Mission System, a computer system that helps direct air traffic. Source: Getty / John Moore

Allied Pilots Association vice president Captain Chris Torres said the outage could affect traffic through Friday.

“This thing was picked up at 9 a.m. Eastern Time. That doesn’t mean the problem stops at 9am. That will cause ripple effects,” said Mr. Torres, whose members fly for American Airlines.
“The end result of this will be very similar to major weather events.”

The FAA previously ordered airlines to suspend all domestic flights after its pilot warning system crashed and the agency was forced to perform a hard reset around 2 a.m., officials said.

Flights already in the air were allowed to continue to their destinations.
US President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Transportation to investigate and said the cause of the failure was unknown.
When asked if a cyberattack was behind the outage, Mr. Biden told reporters, “We don’t know.”

Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg promised a “process to identify root causes and recommend next steps.”

A NOTAM is a notice containing information that is important to personnel involved in flight operations but is not known well in advance to be published in any other way.
A ground stop is an air traffic control action that slows or halts aircraft at a specific airport.

A total of 21,464 US flights with a capacity of nearly 2.9 million passengers were scheduled to depart on Wednesday, data from Cirium showed.

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