FAA lifts ban on US domestic flights after computer system is restored

The US Federal Aviation Administration lifted its order for a complete halt to all domestic flights for two hours after a key flight safety system went down Wednesday morning.

More than 700 flights to or from US airports had been canceled and more than 4,000 had been delayed by 9 a.m., about two hours after the Federal Aviation Administration ordered the stop, according to data from FlightAware, a flight tracking website.

The FAA ordered the rare domestic air travel suspension following a failure of what it calls the Notice to Air Missions system, which provides real-time information about potential hazards to pilots and crew members.

Though the FAA was still looking for the original cause of the outage, it said in a tweet just before 9 a.m. that it was resuming its normal flight schedule.

“Following an overnight outage of the Notice to Air Missions system, which provides flight crews with safety information, normal U.S. flight operations are gradually resuming,” the FAA wrote. “The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to investigate the cause of the initial problem.”

The agency ordered the infrequent “ground stop” just after 7 a.m. ET for two hours as it struggled to restore the critical security system. However, it stressed that airborne flights were safe to land.

A blanket ban on all flight departures is highly unusual. The longest previous example followed the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, in which planes were used to destroy the World Trade Center in New York City.

The troubles come less than a month after bad weather led to mass disruptions and thousands of flight cancellations.

The White House stressed that while it is unclear what caused the problem, there is no reason to believe it was the result of a cyber attack.

“There is currently no evidence of a cyberattack,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote on Twitter.

US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said he was “in touch” with the FAA about the system outage.

“The FAA is working to resolve this issue quickly and safely so air travel can resume normal operations and will continue to provide updates,” Buttigieg wrote on Twitter.

US President Joe Biden told reporters at the White House on Wednesday morning that he had spoken to Buttigieg.

“They don’t know what the cause is,” Biden said. “Planes can still land safely, just not yet take off.”

Biden, who accompanied his wife to a medical procedure Wednesday morning, said he expects to have a “good sense” of what caused the disorder “in a couple of hours.”

At 6:27 a.m. ET, United Airlines announced a “ground stop” for all flights through 10 a.m. ET.

United wrote on Twitter that it had “temporarily” postponed all domestic flights and would issue an update when it learned more from the FAA.

Another major airline, Southwest Airlines, said it was “closely monitoring” the situation and asked passengers to check their flight status. American Airlines also said it was “closely monitoring” the situation.

Departure boards showed that only three of the 20 flights scheduled to depart JFK Airport in New York City between 5:40 a.m. and 6:10 a.m. managed to take off successfully.

In all, nearly 21,500 flights were expected to depart from US airports on Wednesday, according to aeronautical data company Cirium.

Additional reporting by Lauren Fedor in Washington

https://www.ft.com/content/e65ee681-f242-45f1-b1ab-b5f1b42d8a12 FAA lifts ban on US domestic flights after computer system is restored

Adam Bradshaw

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