HomeNewsAll U.S. Flights Grounded, Thousands Stranded at Airport & on Tarmac

All U.S. Flights Grounded, Thousands Stranded at Airport & on Tarmac

by Shelby Scott
Southwest Airlines Flight Cancellations
(Photo by ROBYN BECK/AFP via Getty Images)

On Wednesday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights across the country due to a failure with its NOTAM system. The failed system, which allows pilots to access flight plans, has left thousands of Americans stranded on the tarmac and in airports nationwide. Officials state flights will remain grounded until at least 9 a.m. EST.

According to the Daily Mail, the White House reports that there is no evidence of a cyber attack. Instead, the news outlet claims the NOTAM system failure marks just another travel headache for airplane passengers in recent weeks. The mass cancellations come just weeks after holiday travel plans were completely uprooted by Southwest Airlines company.

The failure of the FAA’s NOTAM system (Notice to Air Missions System) is incredibly significant for two reasons. One, it allows pilots to communicate flight paths. But, two, it also enables them to connect with air traffic controllers about hazards. Per the outlet, information distributed by NOTAM can contain up to 200 pages of information for long-haul international flights. Those pages can include anything including information about runway closures, general bird hazard warnings, or low-altitude construction obstacles. The NOTAM system initially failed around 6 a.m. EST Wednesday and, by 7:30, remained unfixed.

Meanwhile, Pete Buttigieg, the U.S. Secretary of Transportation, addressed the mass flight cancellations online. He said in a post, “I have been in touch with FAA this morning about an outage affecting a key system for providing safety information to pilots. FAA is working to resolve this issue swiftly and safely so that air traffic can resume normal operations, and will continue to provide updates.”

Cause of Systems Failure Affecting U.S. Flights Remains Unclear

Though White House representatives have insisted that the mass flight cancellations come with no evidence of a cyber attack, they’re still uncertain what has actually caused the NOTAM system failure. President Joe Biden spoke with the press Wednesday morning amid the flight cancellations, assuring that he’s ordered a full investigation.

The FAA also made a statement regarding the system failure Wednesday morning. They wrote on Twitter, “The FAA is working to restore its Notice to Air Missions System. We are performing final validation checks and reloading the system now. Operations across the National Airspace System are affected. We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.”

Still, no matter how quickly the FAA manages to resolve the issues, the cancelations nationwide Wednesday morning are more than likely to have an impact on flights throughout the rest of the day. As airport lounges rapidly filled with passengers following the announcement, some passengers were told simply to go home.

Though the FAA has canceled all outgoing flights, planes in the air as of Wednesday morning were still able to land safely.