FAA Attributes Failure of Notam IT System to Human Error

 - January 13, 2023, 9:03 AM
A failure of the notam system in the U.S. forced a nationwide ground stop on the morning of January 11, 2023. (Photo: American Airlines)

A failure to follow proper procedure by IT “personnel” damaged the corrupted database file in the FAA computer system that led to the grounding of all commercial flights in the U.S. for an hour and a half on Jaunuary 11, according to a statement released by the agency overnight. FAA investigators reached the conclusion before NBC Nightly News reported late Thursday that at least one of eight contract employees with access to the Notam system made the edit that corrupted the file in question, citing unnamed sources within the agency.

“Over the past 36 hours, the FAA has been conducting a preliminary analysis into the notam system interruption,” read the statement. “The agency determined that a data file was damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures. The system is functioning properly and cancellations [on Thursday] were below one percent.” Asked by AIN whether or not the personnel in question were contractors or FAA employees, the agency declined to elaborate.

A day earlier, on January 11, U.S. airlines registered nearly 11,000 delays and almost 3,000 cancellations within, into, and out of the country, according to data from flight tracking service FlightAware. 

The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an investigation into the outage and members of Congress have vowed to do the same as they prepare to deliberate over the next FAA Reauthorization bill. The disruption has prompted questions as to whether the FAA's information technology is sufficiently robust, with some critics suggesting that the agency's infrastructure suffers from a lack of investment in modernization.