What To Know: FAA Flight Disruptions

January 12, 2023
Airplane ascending to the blue sky with some white clouds visible

This is rare… The fact that they had to initiate a ground stop across the United States, that hasn’t happened since September 11th, 2001. So you get an idea of the magnitude of this.

Assistant professor in applied aviation sciences at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, Mike McCormick. All U.S. flights were grounded on Wednesday morning due to a technological malfunction.

What Happened: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) grounded all flights when the Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) system – which provides safety information for pilots – malfunctioned. Because a pilot cannot take off until they review the NOTAM information, all flights were grounded. FAA said that as of now, "preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack."

Why It Matters: Airline travel has experienced significant hurdles in recent weeks due to technology, such as Southwest Airlines cancelling thousands of flights, and natural causes related to winter storms. While the FAA lifted the ban on flying by 9 a.m. on Wednesday, airports experienced major delays. As of noon, more than 7,300 flights had been delayed and more than 1,100 flights were cancelled.

Something to Consider: In the wake of Wednesday's malfunction, many are calling on the FAA to modernize its systems. However, the conversation is not necessarily new. For example, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby, in a September meeting with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said: “The FAA needs more funding for appropriate staffing … we in aviation have to commit to helping them get that … We need to modernize air traffic control. They're doing it with old technology, and they're doing it without enough staffing, and we have to fix that or nothing else is going to matter."

EXPLAINER: How NOTAM caused widespread flight disruptions (The Associated Press)

10,000+ US flights delayed, canceled: 'I'm frustrated, but I smell like passion fruit' (USA Today)

by Jenna Lee,