One Corrupted File Caused the FAA to Ground All Flights for the First Time Since 9/11

The FAA might know what caused them to ground every plane in the U.S. yesterday for the first time since 9/11.  They think one corrupted file did it.

If you’re just catching up:  They issued a nationwide order around 7:30 A.M. Eastern yesterday that stopped ALL flights from taking off.  The issue was with their “NOTAM” system that lets them relay info to pilots.  “NOTAM” stands for “Notice to Air Missions.”

People immediately thought it might have been a cyberattack.  The White House said they didn’t think it was, but they weren’t ruling it out.

Planes were taking off again an hour or two later, but it caused a massive backlog.  By last night, over 1,300 flights had been canceled, and more than 10,000 had been delayed.  The FAA is hoping things get back to normal today.  Here are a few updates we’ve seen . . .

1.  They think a single corrupted file caused it.  And it tanked the primary AND back-up systems.  They’re still looking into how it got corrupted, but said again there was no evidence of a cyberattack.

2.  The FAA knew there was a problem on Tuesday afternoon.  The only way to fix it was by rebooting the whole system.  They decided to do it early yesterday morning to get it done before most flights would be taking off.  But it ended up taking longer.

3.  It’s never happened before.  The Associated Press asked aviation experts, and they couldn’t remember a tech issue ever causing something this widespread.  A former V.P. at American Airlines said there are local issues sometimes, but this was, quote, “pretty significant historically.”

4.  The system is very outdated.  It’s been around since 1947 and used to be phone-based.  Now it’s all online, but politicians are calling for an overhaul.  Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he agrees it’s the “right time” to talk about it and make sure this doesn’t happen again.

5.  Canada had its own issues.  Their NOTAM system went down a few hours later, but their back-up worked, so it didn’t cause delays.  Officials ruled out a cyberattack, and said they don’t think it was related to the U.S. outage.  (???)

6.  The U.K. had a “cyber incident” too with its mail service.  They didn’t call it a cyberattack, but it’s still not clear what happened.  They said it caused “minor” delays with mail being delivered overseas.  It’s not clear if it’s related at all.

7.  This all came just weeks after major flight delays around the holidays.  Those were all caused by winter weather, and issues at Southwest.  But two major issues back-to-back doesn’t have people very confident in air travel right now.

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