A preliminary review of the recent Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system failure found that the glitch was caused by contract personnel who unintentionally deleted files on a key computer system widely used by flight crews, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) announced.
“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 US regulator wrote in the statement, which was released on January 19, 2023.
The FAA said that it did not find any evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent.
“The FAA made the necessary repairs to the system and has taken steps to make the NOTAM system more resilient. The agency is acting quickly to adopt any other lessons learned in our efforts to ensure the continuing robustness of the nation’s air traffic control system.[…]. The FAA continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outage,” the statement concluded.
A NOTAM glitch led to massive flight disruption
More than 11,000 flights were delayed and at least 1,300 were canceled across the US due to the NOTAM system failure on January 11, 2023. 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.
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, namely 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.