All flights across America were grounded today for the first time since 9/11 after a crucial FAA computer system that pilots use to access flight plans and communicate with air traffic control crashed overnight.
The problem was first reported shortly before 6.30am EST, with the FAA announcing an outage of its NOTAM system. By 9am, it had been resolved and flights were beginning to take off again after a two-and-a-half-hour ground order.
While the computer issue has been resolved, the hours-long pause sent the day’s flights into chaos that is expected to last throughout the day.
Already, 4,000 flights have been delayed as a result of the outage with some pilots warning the ripple effect from the computer failure would be ‘huge’.
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Grounded planes at Washington Reagan airport on Wednesday morning after an FAA systems failure grounded all flights across the country
All flights have been grounded until at least 9am EST which will have a knock-on effect on the 45,000 flights the FAA handles every day
Flights across the country are still landing. The FAA says departures will resume again at 9am
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted that there was ‘no evidence of a cyberattack at this point’.
Planes can still land safely – and many are – but none are allowed to take off domestically for at least another hour.
In pre-market trading, the shares of Delta, American Airlines and United all dipped slightly.
It is the first time all air traffic has been grounded in America since 9/11.
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Vice President Cpt. Michael Santoro told Fox Business the impact would be ‘huge’.
‘The last time we had all airplanes grounded was, I hate to say it, but back in 9/11.
‘No airplanes move, so that’s what we’re looking at today,’ he said.
In the meantime, thousands of people are stranded at airports across the country. Airport lounges quickly filled up as news of the outage spread, while some passengers were told by their airlines to simply ‘go home’.
Disgruntled travelers have told DailyMail.com they are having to cancel long-standing plans because of the FAA systems failure chaos.
Tampa: Elspeth Nairn (left) told DailyMail.com she was on her way to Hawaii to help her sister who recently broke her hip. ‘I’m very disappointed. My sister had fallen and broken her hip and the purpose of my trip is to help her.’ Daryl Leak (right) is an electrical safety inspector who was due to travel to Denver for work. ‘It looks like everything will have to be pushed back. It’s incredibly annoying,’ he said
Denver: Passengers wait at the gate for updates after their flight is delayed
Los Angeles: Passengers waiting to board a grounded Alaska Airlines flight at L.A.X.
Tampa: A passenger stranded at Tampa’s International Terminal 7a on Wednesday morning
Elspeth Nairn was meant to be heading out of Tampa International Airport this morning to help her sister who lives in Kona, Hawaii and has broken her hip.
‘I’m left with no choice but to cancel everything and rebook for Friday,’ retired Nairn, of Bradenton, Florida, said.
‘My flight was meant to go through Phoenix and that one was also cancelled.
‘So I’m leaving the airport and going home now. I’m rebooking for Friday, because that looks like the earliest I can make it. It’s better to cancel and let this hubbub clear.
‘I’m very disappointed. My sister had fallen and broken her hip and the purpose of my trip is to help her.’
Electrical safety engineer Daryl Leak, waiting for a flight to Dallas and a connection to Denver, Colorado, told DailyMail.com: ‘This is my second delay in five days.
‘If it’s not sorted within the next 20 minutes I’m going to be forced to cancel and go home because I’m not going to make any connection.
Tampa: Passengers stranded at Tampa airport in Florida on Wednesday
Tampa: More passengers waiting for their flight at Tampa’s International Terminal 7A on Wednesday
JFK: Grounded planes are shown at New York’s JFK on Wednesday morning as the delays continued
Chicago: Grounded planes in a row at Chicago O’Hare Airport on Wednesday
Atlanta: Two Delta planes sit on the tarmac at Atlanta’s airport – the largest in the US and one of the busiest in the world – on Wednesday
Chicago: Passengers wait for updates at Chicago O’Hare Airport on Wednesday morning
‘I’m an electrical safety inspector and I’m working.
What is the FAA Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system?
Wednesday saw thousands of flights across the US grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), due to a failure in the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) system.
In the world of aviation, NOTAM is an unclassified notice that contains vital information for those concerned with flight operations, while not being delivered far enough in advance to be in the public realm through other means.
A NOTAM is filed with a country’s aviation authority – in the case of the US, the FAA – to alert other pilots of any hazards on their route.
The authority then distributes these notices to relevant pilots.
A NOTAM ‘states the abnormal status of a component of the National Airspace System (NAS) – not the normal status,’ the FAA website explains.
Among the hazards flagged by NOTAM include air shows, parachute jumps, rocket launches, as well as changes in operations such as runway closures or airspace restrictions caused by military exercises.
Criticism has ben leveled at NOTAMs which can go up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights.
In 2017, an Air Canada flight nearly crashed into four other airlines as it attempted to land in San Francisco.
The flight misidentified a taxiway as a runway. Information about the adjacent runway being closed was buried in the NOTAM.
‘But it looks like everything will have to be pushed back. It’s incredibly annoying.’
Leak, from Tampa, said his previous delay eventually saw him driving 650 miles from Raleigh, North Carolina, to his home. ‘I was at Raleigh-Durham airport and they cancelled me at 9pm. The next flight was 4.30pm next day so I drove – nothing else for it.’
As the morning wore on at Tampa International, more and more passengers were being processed through TSA security – but with no flights to board.
It is the latest headache for US air travel after a woeful holiday period which saw the collapse of Southwest Airlines which left thousands of people stranded over Christmas and New Year.
In the first mention of the problem this morning, the FAA said in an alert: ‘The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions System.
‘We are performing final validation checks and repopulating the system now.
‘Operations across the National Airspace System are affected.
‘We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.’
At 7am, the agency said: ‘The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage.
‘While some functions are beginning to come back on line, National Airspace System operations remain limited.’
Shortly before 7.30am, the FAA announced all flights were on hold until 9am.
‘The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage.
‘The FAA has ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.’
NOTAM notices contain information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations, but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means.
Information can go up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights and may include items such as runway closures, general bird hazard warnings, or low-altitude construction obstacles.
The outage comes after federal officials said on Tuesday that they will require charter airlines, air-tour operators and plane manufacturers to develop detailed systems for identifying potential safety problems before accidents occur.
President Biden told reporters the cause of the outage was not yet known but that he had ordered the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation
Pictured: A passenger takes to Twitter to give their own updates on her situation, saying she has been receiving updates from the pilot, and that many passengers were either stranded and had missed connecting flights
The Federal Aviation Administration said safety-management systems have made travel on large airlines safer since their adoption was required in 2018.
‘Expanding safety management systems to other players in the aviation industry will reduce accidents and incidents and save lives,’ acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen said in a statement.
The National Transportation Safety Board, which investigates crashes, has pushed for wider adoption of such systems.
In 2020, Congress directed the FAA to require them for aircraft manufacturers after two fatal crashes involving Boeing 737 Max planes.
The FAA said its proposal Tuesday went further by including smaller passenger-carrying operators.
In justifying expanding the requirement to smaller air operators, the FAA cited incidents including a 2015 crash of a float plane near Ketchikan, Alaska, that killed the pilot and all eight passengers.
The NTSB blamed pilot error and the company’s lack of a formal safety program.
The FAA said Tuesday that if its proposed rule had been in effect, the company would have taken steps that might have prevented the accident, including having a manager responsible for assessing safety risk.
The FAA has an explainer on safety-management systems, which have been a growing trend in aviation in recent years.