FAA accidentally deleted files that grounded thousands of flights

The failure caused airlines to cancel more than 1,300 flights and delay nearly 10,000 more.
a bunch of airplanes grounded at airport


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Remember earlier this month when thousands of flights were inadvertently grounded in one of the biggest blunders in FAA history? Well, the Federal Aviation Administration is finally giving an explanation for what really happened. 

A little refresher on what went wrong

The FAA’s Notice to Air Missions system temporarily went offline. NOTAM is responsible for providing pilots and other flight personnel with safety information related to flight operations and airports. Pilots are required to contact the NOTAM system prior to flight. 

Though once a manual, telephone-based system, NOTAMs have been “incrementally upgraded over the past several years” to shift to an internet-based operation

When the system went offline on January 11, the failure caused airlines to cancel more than 1,300 flights and delay nearly 10,000 more. 

Who’s to blame? 

Following more than 10,000 flights being delayed or canceled in one day, preliminary findings point the finger at human error. Apparently, “contract personnel unintentionally deleted files.” Seems like a big screw up to me — one caused by said personnel trying to synchronize a main and a backup database. The deleted files ended up being necessary to keep the alert system running. 

But, should “personnel” accidentally deleting files really cause a whole outage? It seems the finger should really be pointed at the less-than-resilient operating system and its outdated technologies. 

“The agency has so far found no evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent. The FAA continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outage,”  an FAA statement said.

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