Computer issue halts all US departing flights

A computer issue has forced all U.S. departing flights to halt after a nationwide ground stop imposed by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
american-airline-and-technologyMore than 10,000 flights have been delayed so far and over 1,300 canceled, according to FlightAware, in the first national grounding of flights in about two decades, Reuters news report said.

Major carriers, such as Southwest Airlines, United Airlines, Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, all reported 40 percent or more of flights on Wednesday delayed or canceled.

There is no information on the financial impact from the delay in flight activity. FAA did not reveal the name of the IT services partner which is responsible for managing its IT network and computer issues.

The FAA computer issue had prevented airports from filing updated safety notices that warn pilots of potential hazards such as runway closures, poor weather and construction, bringing flights to a temporary halt.

FAA officials said a preliminary review traced the problem to a damaged database file, but added that there was no evidence of a cyber attack. The file corrupted both the main system and its backup. FAA is doing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage.

FAA officials said they were working to further pinpoint the causes so the problem could be avoided in the future.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN  the ground stop was the right call to make sure messages were getting sent correctly and there was no direct evidence of cyber attack.

Pete Buttigieg told reporters a backup system went into effect on Tuesday but questions were raised about the system’s performance, which led to a complete reboot of the system and prompted the FAA to issue the ground stop about 7:30 a.m. EST (1230 GMT). It was lifted just before 9 a.m. EST.

An FAA advisory said the system that provides so-called Notices to Air Missions with safety messages for pilots and others failed about 3:30 p.m. EST on Tuesday, which meant no new messages could be processed.

The outage occurred at a typically slow time after the holiday travel season, but demand remains strong as travel continues to recover to near pre-pandemic levels.

The FAA suffered another significant computer issue on Jan. 2 that led to significant delays in Florida flights.

Package delivery companies FedEx, United Parcel Service and DHL, which rely heavily on planes, said they faced minimal disruptions on Wednesday.

Separately on Wednesday afternoon, air traffic control manager NAV Canada reported an outage of about 90 minutes in a similar messaging system used in Canada, but said the issue had not caused any flight delays. The agency said it did not believe its outage was related to the FAA one, but was investigating.