FAA Shutdown: Human Error and Software Malfunction Caused System Breakdown
Due to a massive software failure, the FAA imposed a nationwide stop to domestic flights in the United States on Wednesday morning. The breakdown was purportedly triggered by an engineer changing one file with another while working on the system. One FAA official stated, “It was an honest mistake that cost the country millions.”
According to ABC News, a senior FAA official stated that an engineer unintentionally changed one file with another while working on a project, resulting in a total system breakdown. The FAA hurried to figure out what went wrong as the system displayed various faults and eventually crashed. This miscalculation cost millions of dollars and disrupted thousands of flights across the country. The official stated: “It was an honest mistake that cost the country millions.”
The FAA declared that normal operations were “resuming gradually” after lifting the ground stop and resuming departures at two of the country's busiest hubs, Newark, New Jersey, and Atlanta, Georgia. The agency stated that there was no proof of a cyberattack while still investigating what caused the initial issue.
The technology in question, Notice Of All Air Missions (NOTAM), alerts pilots to potential flying hazards and urgent limitations. The FAA is currently trying to completely restore the NOTAM system following the interruption. If the FAA's new NOTAM system had been in place, redundancies would have likely averted the cascade failures, but a senior FAA official indicated that the present obsolete system was unable to prevent the error.
A thorough probe, according to Joe Biden's Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, is essential to prevent such accidents in the future. He said, “We’re going to own it, just like we asked the airlines to own their businesses and operations, when there’s a problem in the FAA that needs to be looked at.”
Hearings before Congress are expected, and the replacement of systems may be hastened. When asked what caused the system to break down, Buttigieg said that there “was an issue with irregularities in the messages that were going out” overnight. More information, however, is required to identify what caused the widespread failure.
“Now we have to understand how this could have happened in the first place. Why the usual redundancies that would stop it from being that disrupted, did not stop it from being disrupted this time, and what the original source of the errors or the corrupted files would have been,” Buttigieg said.
According to an internal letter obtained by ABC News from the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, the FAA initially reported the system malfunction on Tuesday. Notably, a successor for the now-defunct FAA system has been long overdue.