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Flight disruptions ease after FAA outage, officials to research

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Travelers as flights are cancelled at Ronald Reagan National Airport (DCA) in Arlington, Virginia, US, on Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023.

Nathan Howard | Bloomberg | Getty Images

Air travel disruptions eased Thursday, a day after a severe pilot safety alert system failure sparked the delay of near half of U.S. flights.

The Federal Aviation Administration halted U.S. flight departures early Wednesday after an outage of the Notice to Air Mission system, which provides pilots and others with safety information comparable to runway hazards.

The FAA said a preliminary review traced the outage to a “damaged database file.” The problems began around 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday. Unable to repair the issue, the FAA rebooted the system, and ordered the bottom stop, which it lifted around 9 a.m. on Wednesday.

That caused a cascade of U.S. flight delays, which totaled 10,563, in response to FlightAware. Greater than 1,300 flights were canceled. Near 500 Thursday flights were delayed to, from and throughout the U.S., and 63 were scrubbed.

The outage and rare nationwide ground stop highlighted yet again how a failure of one among the various systems that underpin the U.S. aviation system can so dramatically derail air travel for lots of of 1000’s of passengers.

The incident got here just weeks after an internal Southwest Airlines platform was overloaded after mass cancellations from severe weather over the year-end holidays, making a dayslong meltdown that the carrier says could cost it greater than $800 million.

The FAA’s outage prompted questions from lawmakers on each side of the aisle, and can likely result in hearings and debate over additional funding for the U.S. aviation regulator. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg vowed to research.

“When there is a problem with a government system, we will own it, we’re going to search out it and we will fix it,” he told reporters Wednesday.

There was no evidence of a cyberattack, the FAA said. Each the first and back-up systems were fed the corrupted data file, in response to an individual conversant in the matter.

“The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to stop this sort of disruption from happening again,” the agency said late Wednesday.

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