(Adds FAA action, House vote, briefing)
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Wednesday told lawmakers on Thursday to offer a pilot trial to contractor employees involved in deleting files that led to the first nationwide ground stop since 2001. He said he had revoked access to the messaging database.
Last week, the FAA said the contract personnel who disrupted the Air Mission Notification (NOTAM) messaging system that disrupted more than 11,000 flights at the Jan. 11 ground stop “unintentionally deleted files.” He said he discovered that
This was the first nationwide groundstop since the September 11, 2001 Al Qaeda attacks on New York and Washington.
In an email to lawmakers seen by Reuters, the FAA identified the contractor involved as Bethesda-based Spatial Front.
“All Spatial Front personnel directly involved in the takedown have lost access to FAA buildings and systems pending the completion of the investigation,” said an email to FAA lawmakers.
The company did not respond to an email from Reuters late Wednesday. The NOTAM system provides important safety notices to pilots, flight crews, and other users in US airspace.
According to the FAA, the deletion occurred while personnel were working to “fix the synchronization between the live primary database and the backup database.”
On Wednesday, the US House of Representatives passed legislation establishing an FAA task force to improve the NOTAM database. “The recent NOTAM system meltdown highlights a major vulnerability in our air transportation system and highlights the need to address the FAA leadership vacuum,” said the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Chairman Sam Graves said.
“Travelers should be able to get to their destinations without outdated technology shutting down systems and derailing flights,” said Rep. Rick Larsen, the top Democrat on the Transportation Committee. Separately, Acting FAA Director Billy Nollen is scheduled to meet with lawmakers on Thursday, sources told Reuters.The FAA has been without a permanent FAA administrator since late March.
Earlier in the day, the FAA said some NOTAM users had reported slow response times, but said the system remained “up and running online.” He told Reuters on Wednesday that he did not see any impact on flights due to the NOTAM issue. (Reporting by David Shepardson)