Late Tuesday evening, an essential piece of the aviation transportation network operated by the Federal Aviation Administration failed.
And because of that the FAA temporarily grounded all flights nationwide on Wednesday morning.
The ground stop was lifted by 8:50 am east coast time. But the fallout included more than 1,300 canceled flights and close to 10,500 delayed flights over the course of the day, according to flight-tracking website FlightAware.
And, as we know, when that happens, it can take a few days for flight schedules to fully get back in order.
What went wrong?
The FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which provides critical safety and operational information to pilots stopped working. And without that information, it wasn’t safe for any planes to take from any airport.
After the reboot, flights resumed. And by Wednesday evening, the FAA issued a statement with some explanation of what went wrong and a reassurance that the agency wasn’t the victim of a cyber-attack. The agency also promises to ‘further pinpoint’ what went wrong, and “prevent this kind of disruption from happening again.”
“The FAA is continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack. 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.”
Passengers whose flights were canceled are owed refunds by the airlines, even though this was an FAA-induced incident. Most airlines are waiving change fees and allowing ticketed passengers to change plans and trying to rebook passengers on other flights. If your travel plans were disrupted, be sure to see if the credit card you used to book the flight has some sort of travel delay insurance. Here are links to the Travel Alert page for many airlines.