Buttigieg defends FAA's decision to ground flights after system outage
From CNN's Shawna Mizelle
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg defended the Federal Aviation Administration’s decision Wednesday morning to ground flights nationwide following a safety system outage, saying it was “the right call” but acknowledging that “these kinds of disruptions should not happen.”
“And my primary interest, now that we've gotten through the immediate disruptions of the morning, is understanding exactly how this was possible and what steps are needed to make sure it doesn't happen again,” Buttigieg told CNN’s Kate Bolduan on “At This Hour.”
Buttigieg cited irregularities with the FAA system that relays safety messages out to airports, aircraft and airlines and said the flight halt was put in place to ensure the system was working correctly.
12:04 p.m. ET, January 11, 2023
Transportation secretary says it's the right time to review the FAA's technology
US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was asked on CNN this morning if today's outage is an indication that the FAA's system is out of date. He responded said that is one of the "key questions" officials need to look at based on what happened overnight.
The number of cancellations and delays has continued to climb despite the agency lifting a ground stop that it issued earlier Wednesday morning following the outage to the system that provides pilots with notices they need before flying.
Rep. Rick Larsen, the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, told CNN’s Kaitlan Collins Wednesday that the failure of Federal Aviation Administration's Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system “begs the question about the current state of the technology infrastructure at the FAA.”
Asked about the comments, Buttigieg said he welcomed the attention from Congress, especially because the US is nearing the time period when it needs to renew funding for the FAA.
"It's the right time to take up those questions," Buttigieg said.
11:34 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
More than 6,700 US flights delayed and over 1,000 canceled so far
Delays and cancellations are stacking up at airports across the country following an outage in the Federal Administration Aviation's Notice to Air Missions system.
More than 6,700 flights within, into or from the US have been delayed so far on Wednesday, with more than 1,000 cancellations, according to the flight-tracking site FlightAware.
Airports have been advising travelers to check with individuals airlines to see their latest flight status.
11:08 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
Sen. Cruz calls for FAA reforms in wake of outage
From CNN's Betsy Klein
Sen. Ted Cruz, the top Republican on the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, called for congressional reforms to the Federal Aviation Administration in the wake of the outage Wednesday.
“The flying public deserves safety in the sky. The FAA’s inability to keep an important safety system up and running is completely unacceptable and just the latest example of dysfunction within the Department of Transportation. The administration needs to explain to Congress what happened, and Congress should enact reforms in this year’s FAA reauthorization legislation. This incident also highlights why the public needs a competent, proven leader with substantive aviation experience leading the FAA,” he said in a statement.
Meanwhile, Democratic Sen. Maria Cantwell, who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, said the panel will look into the causes behind the outage, noting in a statement that the "public needs a resilient air transportation system.”
The agency has been operating without a permanent leader since March. President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the organization, Phillip Washington, hasn’t even received a confirmation hearing.
CNN's Ted Barrett contributed reporting to this post.
11:14 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
FAA is currently operating without a permanent leader as Biden's nominee faces criticism
That’s because President Joe Biden’s nominee to head the organization, Phillip Washington, hasn’t even received a confirmation hearing.
Washington is currently the CEO of the Denver International Airport, his first major leadership role solely focused on aviation. He previously held leadership roles at municipal transit organizations, including in Denver and Los Angeles, focused on bus and rail lines.
He has faced questions about his limited aviation experience and in September, was named in a search warrant issued as part of a political corruption investigation in Los Angeles. It sought more information related to potential favoritism in the awarding of contracts by the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority.
Because his nomination wasn’t acted upon during the last Congress, Biden faced a choice this month of whether to resubmit his name for consideration or identify a new nominee. Biden renominated Washington last week, signaling the administration’s continued support for him. But it remains unclear when he will receive a hearing.
The FAA has been without a permanent administrator since March, when the Trump-nominated Stephen Dickson stepped down midway through his five-year term. Bill Nolan, the agency’s top safety official, was named acting director in April.
10:40 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
Ground stop for Chicago airports lifted
From CNN's Paul P. Murphy
After the Federal Aviation Administration system experienced an outage this morning, both O'Hare International and Midway International airports lifted their ground stop for all inbound and outbound flights.
"Residual delays or cancellations will likely continue throughout the day as a result of this morning's outage," according to a tweet from O'Hare.
Average delays for O'Hare are currently about 50 mins, while Midway delays are averaging about 75 minutes, according to the Chicago Department of Aviation.
10:35 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
"No evidence of foul play" in FAA outage, senior US official tells CNN
From CNN's Sean Lyngaas
There is “no evidence of foul play" based on discussions about the NOTAM system outage with the Department of Transportation and the Federal Aviation Administration, a senior US official familiar with matter told CNN.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said earlier in a statement that there is “no evidence of a cyberattack at this point,” but that President Joe Biden “directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes.”
When asked directly whether the Notice to Air Missions system was due to a cyberattack, Biden said, “they don’t know, they will find out."
CNN's Betsy Klein contributed reporting to this post.
10:29 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
Here's what the NOTAM system is used for
The national system that experienced an outage, Notice to Air Missions — delaying departing flights across the US — is a notice essential to pilots and flight personnel, according to the Federal Aviation Administration.
"A Notice to Air Missions alerts pilots about closed runways, equipment outages, and other potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight," according to the FAA.
Commercial airline pilots use the NOTAM system for real-time information on flight hazards and restrictions. The FAA stipulates the NOTAM system is not to be relied on as a sole source of information, and so some flights may be able to satisfy safety requirements by using other data.
It is separate from the air traffic control system that keeps planes a safe distance from each other, but it’s another critical tool for air safety.
“It’s like telling a trucker that a road is closed up ahead. It’s critical information,” said Mike Boyd, aviation consultant at Boyd Group International.
Although many flights take place without needing to see one of those notices, it’s important that NOTAM messages reach the pilots, who are trained to check for them.
The acronym previously was called Notice to Airmen, but it was changed in December 2021 to be "inclusive of all aviators and missions" and to send notices to drone operators as well.
The FAA also operates the nation’s air traffic control system, with air traffic controllers using radar to track all planes in their air space and radio communications with their cockpits to guide them safely. The computer systems that are the backbone of ATC system have also been known to go down. But when that happens, it typically only affects one region of country, not the entire nation’s air space.
CNN's Chris Isidore contributed reporting to this post.
10:13 a.m. ET, January 11, 2023
Department of Transportation will review technology failure that caused flight disruptions
From CNN's Greg Wallace
Federal officials will conduct a review of the aviation system failure that snarled air traffic Wednesday, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
"I have directed an after-action process to determine root causes and recommend next steps," he said on Twitter.
The technology system that failed "is fully restored," he said after an outage that began late Tuesday and led to the Federal Aviation Administration stopping all domestic aircraft departures for a period Wednesday morning.
President Joe Biden said Buttigieg briefed him on the issue and said he expected the FAA would have an idea of the cause "in a couple of hours."