FAA says contractor deleting files to blame for flight chaos earlier this month

The FAA says a major outage of its pilot alert system on Jan. 11, which delayed 10,000 flights, was caused by a contractor accidentally deleting files.
The FAA says a major outage of its pilot alert system on Jan. 11, which delayed 10,000 flights, was caused by a contractor accidentally deleting files.

A major outage in the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) pilot alert system that delayed 10,000 flights on Jan. 11 was caused by a contractor accidentally deleting files.

“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 agency has so far found no evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent. The FAA continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outage,” an FAA statement released on Jan. 19 reads.

The FAA statement stated further that the organization “made the necessary repairs to the system” and had 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 statement reads.

The delays began on Jan. 11 around 7 a.m. and caused chaos during most of the day. In addition to the 10,000 or so delays, another 1,300 flights were canceled.

Last week, a group of Washington lawmakers wrote a letter to FAA, calling the incident “unacceptable,” and demanded to know what would be done to avoid it happening again.

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