Flights are slowly resuming across the country following the Federal Aviation Administration’s nationwide grounding of all air travel early Wednesday morning, the first of its kind since 9/11. Experts indicate there is currently no evidence of cyberterrorism, with the FAA instead pointing towards what appears to be a widespread failure of its Notices to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. The internal service for flight personnel is used to convey timely, unclassified safety information regarding issues such as facility outages, airspace restrictions, and air traffic hazards.
Although the FAA states the software glitch occurred early Wednesday, travelers have said that the problems began sometime Tuesday evening. “We were told that there was an outage that happened at 7 p.m. yesterday and they were trying to fix it then. It apparently worsened this morning,” one passenger told NBC News today.
As of writing, the aviation tracking website FlightAware lists over 6,700 delays within, into, and out of the US, alongside around another 2,400 cancellations. It is currently unclear to what extent the issue could affect international travel, although the ripple effects are already being felt.
While there is no evidence pointing towards cyberattacks, the Biden administration has already announced it intends to conduct an investigation into the issue. And Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg tweeted this morning that they have “directed an after-action process to determine root causes and recommend next steps.”
The news comes barely two weeks after Southwest Airlines’ logistical collapse due to an outdated internal pilot and crew scheduling system. The holiday delays and cancellations stranded thousands, and prompted stern rebukes from the Department of Transportation. Wednesday’s nationwide travel emergency, however, points towards potentially similar antiquated federal technology as the culprit.