The grounding of all flights and Federal Aviation Administration systems failure that occurred Wednesday morning across the United States was caused by a mistake made by an engineer.
An engineer ‘replaced one file with another,’ an official told ABC News, not realizing the mistake was being made and ultimately causing the system to show problems and fail.
The culprit engineer has yet to be identified.
Engineers and IT teams are working feverishly to prevent the system from crashing again today, as they also scramble to figure out if there are any similar systems that could fail as easily.
Miami: Passengers left stranded at the airport Wednesday morning as thousands of delays plagued the nation
More than 11,300 flights were delayed or canceled on Wednesday in the first national grounding of domestic traffic in about two decades, since 9/11
An official told the outlet, ‘It was an honest mistake that cost the country millions.’
The mistake that caused a complete pause in US flights for several hours occurred during what was meant to be a routine scheduled systems maintenance.
On Wednesday, Canada’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system was also disrupted. It is unclear if what happened with the US’ neighbor to the north was connected to the FAA’s system failure.
The FAA is working to switch over to a new NOTAM system, which would have prevented the system from failing entirely on Wednesday.
However, the antiquated system that remains in place for the time being did not stop the outages.
On Thursday, the US’ NOTAM system was attempting to process incredibly high levels of traffic as pilots and airports began the day with regular flight operations back on track.
The result of the chaos, however, was still being felt Thursday as nearly 600 flights had been delayed by midday and close to 75 canceled.
Zach Griff, senior writer at travel experts The Points Guy, told DailyMail.com on
The last time we had all airplanes grounded was, I hate to say it, but back in 9/11. No airplanes move, so that’s what we’re looking at today… the impact will be huge
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Vice President Cpt. Michael Santoro
Wednesday that the reason for continued delays through Thursday is because, ‘Once the system became operational again, flights were theoretically allowed to resume but — and this is the kicker — airlines can’t simply just “restart” their operations.
‘Many planes were already delayed and in the wrong place, while flight crews operating these planes were already thrown off schedule.
‘Flight crews can only legally work a certain number of hours, and specific planes were already scheduled for flights that’ve since been delayed.
‘This domino effect will continue to lead to a slew of delays and cancellations throughout the U.S. today and likely into Thursday.
Passengers at Chicago O’Hare airport on Wednesday after a ‘computer failure’ halted all flights for several hours and delayed 5,000 planes
All flights have been grounded until at least 9am EST which will have a knock-on effect on the 45,000 flights the FAA handles every day
Southwest Airlines Pilots Association Vice President Cpt. Michael Santoro recalled to Fox Business the last time all US flights were grounded.
‘The last time we had all airplanes grounded was, I hate to say it, but back in 9/11,’ he said.
‘No airplanes move, so that’s what we’re looking at today.’
The mid-week meltdown is the latest headache for US air travelers following a woeful holiday period that saw the collapse of Southwest Airlines, which left thousands of people stranded over Christmas and New Year.
In the first mention of the problem Wednesday morning, the FAA said in an alert: ‘The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions System.
‘We are performing final validation checks and repopulating the system now.
‘Operations across the National Airspace System are affected.
‘We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.’
At 7am, the agency declared: ‘The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage.
‘While some functions are beginning to come back on line, National Airspace System operations remain limited.’
Shortly before 7.30am, the FAA announced all flights were on hold until 9am.
‘The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage.
‘The FAA has ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.’
NOTAM notices contain information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations, but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means.
Information can be as long as 200 pages for long-haul international flights and may include items such as runway closures, general bird hazard warnings, or low-altitude construction obstacles.
The outage arrived after federal officials said on Tuesday that they will require charter airlines, air-tour operators and plane manufacturers to develop detailed systems for identifying potential safety problems before accidents occur.
What is the FAA Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system?
Wednesday saw thousands of flights across the US grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), due to a failure in the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAMs) system.
In the world of aviation, NOTAM is an unclassified notice that contains vital information for those concerned with flight operations, while not being delivered far enough in advance to be in the public realm through other means.
A NOTAM is filed with a country’s aviation authority – in the case of the US, the FAA – to alert other pilots of any hazards on their route.
The authority then distributes these notices to relevant pilots.
A NOTAM ‘states the abnormal status of a component of the National Airspace System (NAS) – not the normal status,’ the FAA website explains.
Among the hazards flagged by NOTAM include air shows, parachute jumps, rocket launches, as well as changes in operations such as runway closures or airspace restrictions caused by military exercises.
Criticism has ben leveled at NOTAMs which can go up to 200 pages for long-haul international flights.
In 2017, an Air Canada flight nearly crashed into four other airlines as it attempted to land in San Francisco.
The flight misidentified a taxiway as a runway. Information about the adjacent runway being closed was buried in the NOTAM.