January 29, 2023

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Flights resume after major computer outage in US

A computer outage forced the US civil aviation regulator (FAA) to temporarily suspend all domestic flight departures from the US on Wednesday morning, with the White House ruling out the possibility of a cyber attack.

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The FAA lifted a ban on all departures on the country’s east coast around 9 a.m. and confirmed in a tweet that “normal aviation operations are gradually resuming” across the country.

He had already warned that flights could resume at that time once the problems affecting the critical information system for pilots and crew were resolved.

The blackout started overnight from Tuesday to Wednesday. The FAA clarified that it would “continue to investigate the cause of the initial problem.”

All domestic flights departing from the United States had to be grounded by 9:00 a.m., except at Newark Liberty Airport (in the western suburbs of New York) and Atlanta, where flights started earlier to avoid heavy traffic.

Asked about the matter, US President Joe Biden said he had spoken with his Transport Secretary Pete Buttigieg, but said the origin of the breach was unknown at this time.

“Airplanes can still land safely, but cannot take off at this time,” Biden said before the departure ban was lifted.

Regulators “don’t know what the cause is and they expect to have a good idea in a few hours, at which point they will act,” he added.

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White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said on Twitter, “There is no indication of a cyber attack at this point.”

Baltimore to Ottawa

Several airports in North America (Ottawa, Baltimore, Austin, Boston…) warned of delays and asked travelers to check their flight status before heading to the airport.

US airline United Airlines confirmed in a statement to AFP that the FAA had lifted the suspension and that operations had resumed.

“Customers may continue to experience delays and cancellations while we work to restore our program and should check the company’s app or site for the latest information on their flight,” United added.

“We are closely monitoring the situation and are working with the FAA to minimize disruption to customers,” American Airlines said in a separate statement.

The episode of disruption at U.S. airports was sparked by a wave of extreme cold and snow at Christmastime, followed by several days of cancellations and cancellations within Southwest Airlines.

The Notice of Air Operations Affected by Wednesday’s Outages (NOTAM) system provides flight crews with information on hazards, airport developments and other important information.

The system is “indispensable in the information needed to conduct ground/air operations,” explained AFP Michel Merluzeau, an analyst at the Cabinet AIR.

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“This may include airport information, special operations such as military operations, or temporary flight restrictions,” he continued.

According to flight tracking site FlightAware, nearly 4,600 flights were delayed in the U.S. as of 9:25 a.m. on the nation’s East Coast. The number of delays associated with the outage is unclear.

A total of 21,464 flights are expected to depart the US on Wednesday, the majority on domestic routes, according to figures from specialist firm Juliet Alpha. Around 2 million passengers may be affected by this incident.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said on Twitter that he had called for an investigation to “determine the causes of the outage and recommend next steps.”