US flight delays: Thousands due to computer outages

the main points
  • More than 6,000 flights have been delayed and nearly 1,000 cancelled.
  • The number of affected flights increased even after the ground stop was cancelled.
  • US President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Transportation to investigate.
  • On Wednesday, 21,464 US flights are scheduled to depart and carry nearly 2.9 million passengers.
US flights are slowly resuming departures and a ground station has been lifted after the Federal Aviation Administration scrambled to fix a system outage that grounded all departures.
More than 6,000 flights have been delayed and nearly 1,000 canceled according to the FlightAware website, with officials saying it will take hours to recover from the grounding. The numbers were still going up.
It was not clear what caused the problem with the pilot alert system, but US officials said they had not yet found any evidence of a cyberattack.
The outage occurred at a typically slow time after the holiday travel season, but demand remains strong with travel continuing to recover to near pre-pandemic levels.

“Normal air traffic operations are gradually resuming across the United States following the overnight outage of the Notice to Air Missions system providing safety information to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted. We are still investigating the cause of the initial problem,” the FAA tweeted.

The number of affected flights increased even after the ground stop was cancelled.
One of the problems airlines face is trying to get planes in and out of crowded gates, causing more delays.
At an airport in Greenville, South Carolina, Justin Kennedy ditches a business trip to nearby Charlotte.
He said confusion arose because airline employees were unaware of what the FAA was saying, and many passengers were initially unaware of the delays.
“I sat in the Chick-fil-A food area with a good view of the TSA exit,” said the 30-year-old IT employee.

“I saw at least four people running towards the gates because they thought they were going to miss their flight, only to run back to the mess hall, impatiently.”

Thousands of flights across the United States are gradually resuming after the Federal Aviation Administration suffered an early morning outage of the Air Mission Notification System, a computer system that helps direct air traffic. Source: GT / John Moore

Captain Chris Torres, vice president of the Allied Pilots Association, said the outage could affect traffic through Friday.

“This thing lifted at 9 a.m. ET. That doesn’t mean the problem stops at 9 a.m. That’s going to cause ripple effects,” said Torres, whose members fly on American Airlines.
“The end result of that will be very similar to large weather events.”

The FAA had earlier ordered airlines to pause all domestic flights after the pilot alert system malfunctioned, and the agency had to perform a hard reset around 2 a.m., officials said.

Flights have already been allowed to continue to their destinations.
US President Joe Biden ordered the Department of Transportation to investigate and said the cause of the failure was unknown.
Asked if a cyberattack was behind the outage, Biden told reporters, “We don’t know.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pledged “a process to identify root causes and recommend next steps.”

A NOTAM is a notice that contains basic information for personnel involved in flight operations but is not sufficiently known in advance to be disseminated by other means.
A ground stop is an air traffic control procedure that slows or stops aircraft at a particular airport.

Data from Cirium showed that 21,464 US flights were scheduled to depart on Wednesday, with a capacity of approximately 2.9 million passengers.

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