After a computer glitch in a critical Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer system led to the first nationwide ground stop since the terrorist attacks of 9/11 wreaked havoc on flight schedules across the country earlier this month, the House is ready to accept a bipartisan bill to reform the system.
The FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system crashed on Wednesday, January 11, disrupting 11,000 flights with cancellations and delays in the US due to the outage, which was allegedly caused by an error that occurred during maintenance of system routine. The NOTAM system is a vital tool that alerts pilots and other personnel to abnormal air problems and airport delays that arise and can affect flight plans or pose a safety hazard, although the FAA described the system as “hardware old failed” in your last quote request. .
House lawmakers are expected to have a chance to vote this week on a bipartisan bill that would seek to fix the NOTAM system. Introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.) and cosponsored by Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), the NOTAM Improvement Act would establish a bipartisan working group to review methods for presenting NOTAMs to pilots in addition to of regulations and policies After the task force completes its review, it will provide recommendations on best practices that enhance pilots’ ability to review and retain relevant information.
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The task force would be comprised of members designated by the FAA administrator, including representatives from airlines, airports, airline pilots unions, unions representing air traffic controllers, and information specialists from the FAA, general aviation and business, along with experts in aviation security, human factors, and information systems.
Stauber said in a press release that the outage shows the “urgent need for updates and improvements” to the NOTAM system to “keep air traffic moving safely in our skies.”
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“During my time on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have heard from many pilots who have raised concerns about the NOTAM system, so yesterday’s news was not a surprise,” Stauber added. “We must quickly pass my legislation to figure out how to make the NOTAM system work better for pilots and passengers alike, and ensure greater oversight from the Federal Aviation Administration in the future to prevent future problems.”
Previous versions of the NOTAM Improvement Law passed the House with bipartisan votes in Congresses 116 and 117, but none made it out of the Senate to reach the president’s desk.
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The FAA’s initial review of the outage found that the contractors “inadvertently deleted files” while working “to correct synchronization between the main live database and a backup database.” That, in turn, resulted in the NOTAM system being disrupted and the FAA said it “found no evidence of a cyberattack or malicious intent.”
In the wake of the outage, the FAA implemented security measures, such as a staggered upgrade process to isolate issues in one database before they can spread to the other database. The agency also requires that two people be present when routine maintenance is performed.
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Going forward, Reuters reported that the sources said the FAA plans to turn the NOTAM system into a virtual cloud-based platform.
A group of more than 120 lawmakers told the FAA that the outage was “completely unacceptable” and demanded an explanation of how it will prevent such incidents in the future. Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen briefed congressional staff on the matter Friday, and FAA officials plan to hold a briefing for House lawmakers this week.
NOTAMS stands for Notice to Airmen until the Biden administration changed it to Notice to Air Missions in December 2021.
Reuters contributed to this report.