The U.S. Aviation sector struggled to recover from Wednesday’s ground stop imposed on Wednesday by the Federal Aviation Administration. This was due to a computer problem that caused a 90-minute halt to U.S. departures.
According to FlightAware’s estimates, more than 1300 flights were canceled and 10,000 have been delayed. This is the first national grounding in nearly two decades. Officials in the industry compared grounding to the events of Sept. 11, 2001.
Southwest Airlines Co., United Airlines, Delta Air Lines, American Airlines, and United Airlines all reported that 40% of Wednesday’s flights were delayed or canceled. However, airline officials indicated their confidence that operations will resume largely by Thursday.
FAA’s computer problem had stopped airports from filing safety notices to warn pilots about potential dangers such as runway closings, bad weather, and construction. This caused flights to be temporarily halted.
Officials from the FAA stated that a preliminary investigation had found the root cause of the problem in a corrupted database file. However, they added that no evidence was available to suggest that there were cyberattacks and that an investigation is ongoing. People familiar with the review said that the same file had corrupted the backup and main systems. They did not ask to be identified.
FAA officials stated that they are working to find the root cause of the issue so it can be fixed in the future.
CNN was told by Pete Buttigieg, Transportation Secretary, that the ground stop was necessary to ensure messages are being sent in a correct manner and there is no evidence of a cyberattack.
According to the White House, President Joe Biden has confidence in Buttigieg.
Buttigieg said that a backup system was in place on Tuesday, but there were questions about its performance. The FAA issued a ground stop at 7:30 AM EST (1230 GMT) The ground stop was lifted shortly before 9 AM EST.
According to an FAA advisory, the system for providing so-called Notices of Air Missions with safety message information for pilots and other personnel failed on Tuesday at 3:30 PM EST. This meant that no additional messages could have been processed.
Although the outage happened at a slow moment after the holiday season travel, demand for travel is strong and continues to rebound to pre-pandemic levels.
According to Captain Chris Torres (vice president of the Allied Pilots Association), it could impact traffic on Friday.
This thing was removed at 9:00 a.m. Eastern. This doesn’t necessarily mean that the problem ends at 9 AM. “This is going to have ripple effects,” Torres said. Torres’ members all fly with American Airlines.
Airlines are having difficulty getting planes into and out of overcrowded airport gates. This can lead to further delays. Crew time limits may be another factor.
Justin Kennedy, a South Carolina native, abandoned his work trip to Charlotte, North Carolina at an airport in Greenville. He said that confusion was caused by the fact that many airline workers and passengers weren’t aware of delays and moves made by FAA.
The 30-year-old employee in information technology said that he sat in Chick-fil A’s dining room with a great view of TSA exit. I saw four people running to their gates, thinking they would miss their flight. But they returned to the food court exhausted.
Customers of U.S. airlines have limited options. The country has a poor passenger rail system compared to other countries, making driving distances too long.
U.S. Travel Association is a trade association representing the airline industry. It called FAA’s failure “catastrophic”.
Transatlantic flights appeared to be unaffected by the outage.
Maria Cantwell (Democratic Chair of the U.S. Senate Commerce Committee) said that panel members would conduct an investigation. Republican senator Ted Cruz called it “completely unacceptable.”
After the markets opened and flights resumed, shares of U.S. airlines rebounded. S&P 500 Airlines Index, closed 0.9% higher.
At the close of last year, a Southwest operational meltdown left thousands homeless.
Southwest was criticized by the FAA’s parent agency, the DOT. They also demanded compensation for passengers. Buttigieg rejected Wednesday’s suggestion that the FAA reimburse passengers for any delays that were caused by the outage.
Another computer problem at the FAA on January 2 caused significant delays for Florida flight operations.
FedEx, United Parcel Service, and DHL are all package delivery companies that heavily rely on airplanes.
On Wednesday afternoon, NAV Canada, the air traffic controller, reported that there was an outage in Canada’s similar messaging system. However, it said that no flight delays were caused by this issue. Although the agency denied that it was experiencing an outage similar to that reported by FAA, they are still investigating.
Ria Malhotra (a resident physician in Weehawken New Jersey) was scheduled to fly to Las Vegas from Newark for a medical conference. However, her flight was delayed twice and then rescheduled. She wonders what she’ll fly for after this.
She stated that she didn’t wish to have to go through this again because flight delays were more common than the exception.