More delays were on the heels of massive delays and cancellations by airlines weeks ago, with the most noticeable cancellations coming from Southwest airlines. We discussed this in our articles, ‘Southwest Airlines: Fallen From Grace?’ and ‘Southwest Airlines: Symptoms of a Much Larger Problem?’. Recently the FAA’s computer system had a problem that caused additional delays. The problem was seemingly limited to its Noticed The Air Missions (NOTAM) system, formerlyNotice To Airman. According to the FAA:
A NOTAM is a notice containing information essential to personnel concerned with flight operations but not known far enough in advance to be publicized by other means. It states the abnormal status of a component of the National Airspace System (NAS)
Why are NOTAMs so important? In an article on BoldMethod, Swayne Martin shared a story of an event that highlights the dangers of not checking NOTAMS, or worst, having them not available due to system failure:
After a long day of flying approaches to minimums, we were finally flying into XXX, an airport reporting IFR [Instrument flight rules] conditions but much better ceiling heights. The ceilings were reported at 400 feet AGL, with the minimums for our ILS taking us all the way down to 200 feet. My First Officer and I didn’t think much of the 400 foot ceilings and could have done a better job reviewing NOTAMs and the missed approach procedure. On final approach, we passed 400 feet AGL and still didn’t have approach lights in sight. At minimums, to our surprise, we didn’t break out of the clouds and were forced to go missed. We failed to notice that the missed approach procedure had a major change in the NOTAMs. With the XXX VORout of service, we were supposed to fly direct to XXX and hold. This was a completely different missed approach than we briefed. After a surprise missed approach, we fumbled to figure out what was going wrong, all in IMC. Tower asked us our intentions. To make things easy, we requested runway heading for our missed approach and vectors to return. We should have reviewed the NOTAMs and done a better job briefing the approach.
The above story highlights the importance of the NOTAM system for pilots, and this importance can never be overstated. NOTAMs are vital to the overall safety of tens of thousands of flights each day. In this week’s On Aviation™ Digest, we share some stories and articles on what happened with the FAA’s NOTAM system and what were some of the consequences.
FAA system outage causes thousands of flight delays and cancellations across the US
New York CNN—The airline industry slowly resumed service after a Federal Aviation Administration system outage caused thousands of flight delays and cancellations across the United States Wednesday. The FAA briefly halted all domestic flight departures across the US Wednesday morning, lifting the ground stop around 9 a.m. ET after it restored a system that provides pilots with pre-flight safety notices.
By Pete Muntean and Gregory Wallace | CNN – Wed January 11, 2023
What is the FAA’s ‘NOTAM’ system that suffered an outage and caused flight delays?
A critical Federal Aviation Administration system crashed on Tuesday night, leading to thousands of flight disruptions into Wednesday morning. The system impacted, which temporarily paused all domestic flights, is as called a NOTAM, or a Notice to Air Mission. The notice reports essential information to pilots when other means of communication cannot be done further in advance.
By Taylor Rains | Business Insider – Wed January 11, 2023
What is the NOTAM system? The FAA outage causing flight delays across the US, explained.
An overnight computer outage at the Federal Aviation Administration lead to widespread flight delays and disruptions Wednesday morning. The FAA said it was working to restore operations in the hours following. The FAA said the outage was in the Notice to Air Missions system, which provides pilots and flight crews with essential safety information.
By Wyatte Grantham-Philips | USA Today – Wed January 11, 2023
Flights Gradually Resume after FAA Pause on Domestic Departures
Flights across the United States were gradually resuming on Wednesday morning after an hours-long pause sparked by a Federal Aviation Administration system failure. “Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the U.S. following an overnight outage to the Notice to Air Missions system that provides safety info to flight crews,” the FAA said just before 9 a.m. ET.
By Brittany Bernstein | National Review – Wed January 11, 2023
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