(Newsglobal.com)- Airline traffic ground to a halt last Wednesday after a NOTAM communications system crash forced the Federal Aviation Administration to halt all flight departures from the US just after 7:00 am ET.
While the NOTAM system is separate from air traffic control, it is still considered a “vital safety system” in airline travel. Before a flight can take off, pilots and airline dispatchers review notices, including details about the weather, runway closures or construction, or other information that could affect the flight through the NOTAM system.
But last Tuesday night, that vital system stopped accepting new or updated information, according to the FAA. The agency switched to using a phone line for updates during the night but stopped after increased daytime air traffic overwhelmed the phone system.
Flights were allowed to resume about two hours later after the system was restored, but not before causing chaos for the rest of the day.
By the end of last Wednesday, more than 2,800 US flights were canceled and over 9,700 were delayed, according to FlightAware. The major airline hubs of Chicago, Los Angeles, New York, and Atlanta saw 30-40 percent of flights delayed due to the shutdown.
While interviewing Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg that day, MSNBC host Andrea Mitchell asked if the system crash could have been “the result of any nefarious activity.”
At the time, the FAA had not yet determined what caused the NOTAM system to crash, and until the FAA figured it out, Buttigieg said that he wasn’t prepared to rule anything out.
But it wasn’t “nefarious activity” that caused the NOTAM communication system to crash. It was human error.
In a statement released by the FAA late Thursday night, the agency said that after conducting a preliminary analysis of the NOTAM system, it determined that a data file had been “damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures.” The FAA said that by Thursday, the system was fully functioning and flight cancellations had fallen below 1 percent.