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Critical Outage of FAA’s ‘Notice to Air Mission’ System Temporarily Grounds Flights Across North America

Critical Outage of FAA’s ‘Notice to Air Mission’ System Temporarily Grounds Flights Across North America

a white airplane on a runway

A critical outage of a computer system that relays important, time-sensitive information to pilots and airports temporarily grounded flights across North America late on Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning.

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said its ‘Notices to Air Missions’ system “failed” on Tuesday night and, as a result, no new NOTAM messages or amendments could be processed.

In an update on Wednesday morning, the FAA ordered airlines to delay all departures until at least 9 am ET while it rebooted the system and tested its integrity.

As described by the FAA, the Notice to Air Mission system relays information that is “essential to personnel concerned with flight operations”. NOTAMs are used to convey time-sensitive information quickly, and pilots and airports rely on this system when making route plans.

NOTAMs were previously called Notices to Air Men, but the FAA adopted gender-neutral terminology in 2021.

Some travelers took to Twitter to describe their experiences as flights were grounded in response to the outage. Joshua Caleb Smith said he was “stuck” in Honolulu Airport after a ground stop prevented flights from departing.

One of many flights that were delayed as a result of the outage was United Airlines flight UA505 from San Francisco to Houston, which was originally meant to depart at 11:55 pm on Tuesday but kept on getting delayed until it was eventually canceled.

United Airlines said the flight had to be scrapped because “of airport conditions” that prevented the departure.

Data supplied by Flight Aware showed that nearly 4,000 flights to, from and within the United States had been delayed on Wednesday as a result of the system outage. More than 600 have already been canceled.

That number is, however, expected to increase significantly as the day progresses.

In a statement, the FAA said the outage had affected operations across the National Airspace System. The agency said it was “performing final validation checks and reloading the system” in an attempt to get the NOTAM system back up and running.

Some airlines, including the likes of Frontier and Spirit, initially continued to operate flights, while United said it had “temporarily delayed” all domestic departures while it waited for an update from the FAA.

The agency issued a nationwide ground stop that covered all airlines, saying: “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.”

By 8:30 am, the FAA had restarted departures at Newark and Atlanta Airport and departures at other airports resumed a short time later.

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