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FAA blames 'damaged database file' for major NOTAM outage

A technical glitch led to flights being grounded nationwide.
Commercial airplanes are pictured backed up waiting to depart on the runway after flights earlier were grounded during an FAA system outage at Laguardia Airport in New York City, New York, U.S., January 11, 2023. REUTERS/Mike Segar
REUTERS/Mike Segar
Jon Fingas
Jon Fingas|@jonfingas|January 12, 2023 2:30 PM

There wasn't anything particularly sinister about the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) outage that prompted the Federal Aviation Administration to ground US flights on Wednesday — it appears to have been a relatively simple glitch. As part of its early investigation, the FAA has determined that the outage was prompted by a "damaged database file." The agency is still working to identify the exact causes and prevent repeat incidents, but says there's still "no evidence" of a cyberattack.

The FAA grounded all domestic departures in the US on Wednesday morning after the NOTAM system failed the afternoon before. This was the first such failure in the country, and it prompted hundreds of delays that took hours to resolve. NOTAMs provide important information about potential problems along a flight's path, such as runway closures and temporary airspace restrictions.

The initial findings may be reassuring for those concerned the outage may have stemmed from another critical infrastructure hack. However, it still leaves some unanswered questions about the fragility of NOTAM in the US. A single corrupted file was apparently all it took to disrupt flights nationwide for over half a day — whatever redundancy was in place clearly wasn't enough.

FAA blames 'damaged database file' for major NOTAM outage