A Federal Aviation Administration computer outage prompted a rare nationwide grounding of airlines overnight, leading to delayed and canceled flights at Los Angeles International Airport and other airfields across the country Wednesday.
The ground stop was lifted around 6 a.m. after about three hours, and the FAA proclaimed that “normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the U.S.” But the damage had already been done.
At LAX, there were 26 flight cancellations as of Wednesday afternoon, along with more than 350 delayed flights in and out of the airport, according to the flight-tracking website FlightAware. Nationally, there were more than 9,600 delays of flights within, into or out of the United States, along with roughly 1,300 cancellations, according to FlightAware.
Hollywood Burbank Airport had 62 delayed flights and 19 cancellations, while John Wayne Airport in Santa Ana had 104 delays and nine cancellations. Long Beach had 38 delays and 10 cancellations.
It was unclear exactly how many of those delays and cancellations were specifically due to the FAA computer failure.
According to the FAA, the agency’s Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system “failed” and led to the grounding of flights. The NOTAM system notifies workers of flight operations of essential information.
“The FAA has ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information,” the agency announced overnight.
President Joe Biden was briefed by the Secretary of Transportation about the system outage.
“There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the president directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. The FAA will provide regular updates,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted.
All flights that were already in the sky during the outage were safe to land, according to the FAA.
The NOTAM system 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.
On Wednesday afternoon, FAA officials said the agency is continuing a “thorough review” to determine the cause of the failure, but “our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file.” The agency confirmed “there is no evidence of a cyber attack.”
ABC News quoted a senior FAA official who said the problem appeared to be the result of an error that occurred during routine systems maintenance, calling the issue “an honest mistake.”