The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has suspended access to the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system for contractor personnel involved in a system failure that resulted in nationwide flight cancellations and delays earlier in January 2023.
In a letter to lawmakers seen by Reuters on January 26, 2023, the FAA named the contractor company who supplied the personnel involved in the incident.
“All personnel from Spatial Front directly involved in the deletion have lost access to FAA buildings and systems while we complete our investigation,” the FAA said.
The FAA’s decision came after the United States House of Representatives ordered the US regulator to set up a task force focused on NOTAM system improvements.
On January 19, 2023, the FAA announced the results of a preliminary review into the incident. The agency found the technical NOTAM glitch, which took place on January 11, 2023, was caused by contract personnel who unintentionally deleted files on a key computer system widely used by flight crews,
“A preliminary FAA review of last week’s outage of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system determined that contract personnel unintentionally deleted files while working to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database,” the regulator added.
Due to the system outage, more than 11,000 flights were delayed and at least 1,300 were canceled. Following the incident, the FAA ordered all air carriers to halt domestic departures in the country. Normal airline operations were resumed gradually and the ground stop, with all airlines ordered to halt domestic departures, was lifted later that day.
What is a NOTAM?
A NOTAM is an electronic announcement that provides essential information to all personnel involved with flight operations, including pilots, flight dispatchers, and flight planners.
Separated into three classes: Class I (distributed by means of telecommunication), Class II (distributed by other means), and International NOTAMs, it informs crews about any changes or conditions of any component within the National Air System (NAS) in the US, for example.
Components of the NAS can include airports, procedures, or en-route hazards, providing data about any abnormalities within the system.