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The FAA is updating the flight system to prevent future outages

The outage occurred on January 11 and involved a computer glitch affecting the FAA’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system. This system provides pilots and other personnel with critical status updates, including information about runway closures, bird flocks in the airspace, and other safety risks. The outage lasted more than two hours and affected more than 11,000 flights nationwide.

Last week, the FAA attributed the outage to contractors which “unintentionally deleted files while correcting the synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database.” However, as reported by ReutersNolen’s letter to lawmakers elaborates on this a bit, stating that the FAA’s attempts to recover the deleted files also played a role in the outage.

To help prevent recurrence of incidents, Reuters says the FAA has implemented a one-hour delay in the time it takes to synchronize the databases, which should prevent erroneous changes from immediately taking effect in the backup database. The agency “also now requires at least two people to be present during NOTAM system maintenance, including a federal manager.”

Multiple airline executives called on the US government to increase funding to the FAA after the outage. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in an interview with CNBC that the incident was not the FAA’s fault, instead blaming a lack of resources and funding. “Hopefully this is the call to our political leaders in Washington that we need to do better,” he added.

The current NOTAM system consists of two parts conjoined: the 30-year-old U.S. NOTAM system and the Federal NOTAM (FNS) system that the FAA is in the process of updating, according to Reuters. The FAA began modernizing the NOTAM system in 2019 and expects to retire the old system by mid-2025, with the second phase of the upgrade slated for completion in 2030.

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