WASHINGTON/CHICAGO (Reuters) – The U.S. aviation sector struggled to get back to normal on Wednesday after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) forced a 90-minute grounding of flights across the country due to computer problems. was Departure flight.
More than 10,000 flights have been delayed and more than 1,300 canceled so far, according to FlightAware, making it the first nationwide grounding of flights in almost 20 years. Many industry insiders have compared this grounding to what happened after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.
Major airlines including Southwest Airlines (LUV.N), United Airlines (AAL.O), Delta Air Lines (DAL.N) and American Airlines (AAL.O) all delayed more than 40% of Wednesday’s flights. or reported late. Although it has been canceled, airline officials said they are confident that normal operations could largely return to normal operations by Thursday.
A computer issue with the FAA prevented the airport from providing up-to-date safety notices warning pilots of potential hazards such as runway closures, severe weather and construction, temporarily halting flights.
An FAA official said a preliminary investigation pinpointed the problem to a corrupted database file, but added there was no evidence of a cyberattack and the investigation was continuing. The same file destroyed both the main system and its backups, said a person familiar with the review, who requested anonymity.
FAA officials say they are working to “further determine the cause” to avoid this issue in the future.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told CNN it was the “right decision” to make sure the message was sent correctly and there was no direct evidence of a cyberattack.
The White House said President Joe Biden has confidence in Buttigieg.
Buttigieg told reporters the backup system went into effect on Tuesday, but questions about the system’s performance led to a full reboot of the system, which the FAA announced at 7:30 a.m. ET (1230 GMT). He said he had issued a ground stop. It was lifted shortly before 9am ET.
The FAA’s advisory said the system that provides pilots and others with notifications to so-called air missions, including safety messages, failed around 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday and was unable to process new messages. am.
Although the outages occurred typically late after the holiday travel season, demand remains strong as travel continues to recover to near pre-pandemic levels.
Captain Chris Torres, vice president of the Allied Pilots Association, said traffic could be affected by Friday.
“This was lifted at 9 a.m. ET. That doesn’t mean the problem will stop at 9 a.m. This will cause a ripple effect,” Torres said, with members boarding American Airlines. .
One of the problems airlines face is trying to get planes in and out of crowded gates, causing further delays. Crew time limit rules can also be a factor.
At the airport in Greenville, South Carolina, Justin Kennedy forgoes a business trip to nearby Charlotte, North Carolina. He explained that airline employees and many passengers were initially unaware of the FAA’s move and flight delays and were confused.
“I was sitting in the Chick-fil-A dining area with a good view of the TSA exit,” said the 30-year-old information technology officer. “I saw at least four people who thought they were going to miss their flight, sprinted to the gate, and came back to the food court out of breath.”
A ‘catastrophic’ failure
US airline customers have few options. Travel distances are too long and the country’s passenger rail network is thin compared to other countries.
The American Travel Association, which represents the travel industry, including airlines, called the FAA system failure “catastrophic.”
The outage appears to have had limited impact on transatlantic routes.
Senate Commerce Committee chairman Maria Cantwell, Democrat, said the committee would investigate. Republican Senator Ted Cruz called the failure “totally unacceptable.”
US airline stocks rallied after markets opened as flights resumed. The S&P 500 Airline Index (.SPLRCAIR) closed his 0.9% gain.
An operational meltdown in the Southwest late last year left thousands stranded.
The FAA’s parent agency, the DOT, has criticized Southwest Airlines’ failure and pressured the airline to compensate passengers. Buttigieg on Wednesday rejected a proposal that the FAA should compensate travelers for delays caused by blackouts.
The FAA suffered another major computer problem on January 2nd, causing a significant delay to its Florida flight.
FedEx (FDX.N), United Parcel Service (UPS.N) and DHL (DPWGn.DE), parcel delivery companies that rely heavily on air, said they faced minimal disruption on Wednesday.
Separately, on Wednesday afternoon, air traffic control manager NAV Canada reported that a similar messaging system used in Canada caused an outage of approximately 90 minutes, but the problem caused flights to be canceled. We said we never experienced any delays. Officials said they don’t believe the outage is related to the FAA’s outage but are investigating.
Ria Malhotra, a 29-year-old resident physician from Weehawken, New Jersey, was due to fly from Newark to Las Vegas for a medical conference, but her flight was first delayed and then rescheduled. I wonder how far she will fly after this.
“I feel that flight delays are the norm rather than the exception to the rule, so I don’t want to deal with this process any further,” she said.
Reporting by Doina Chiacu and David Shepardson, Washington; Abhijith Ganapavaram, Bangalore; Jamie Freed, Sydney; Rajesh Kumar Singh, Chicago; Nathan Gomes and Priyamvada C, Bengaluru; Allison Lampert, Montreal; Additional reporting by Carew in New York, Ismail Shakir in Ottawa, Steve Holland in Washington Written by Shailesh Coover, Alexander Smith, Ben Kleiman Editing Edmond Blair, Nick Zieminski, Matthew Lewis, Jerry Doyle
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