Travel chaos at airports last week was caused by a contractor employed by the federal aviation administration (faa). the contractor unintentionally deleted files on the notice to air missions (notam) database, which is a crucial computer server used by pilots to alert them to potential hazards on flight routes. this happened on 11 january, causing more than 11,000 flights to be delayed and at least 1,300 to be cancelled across the us. this marked the first time since the attacks on 11 september 2001 that flights across the us were grounded.
Faa said that the contractor who deleted the files was attempting to synchronise the primary and backup notam databases. while the faa has so far found no evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent, they are continuing to investigate the error. in response to the incident, a group of washington dc lawmakers wrote to the faa to say that the outage was “completely unacceptable” and demanded to know how it would be avoided in the future.
Acting administrator billy nolen plans to hold a virtual briefing for lawmakers on friday to discuss their concerns. the faa has taken steps to make the notam system more resilient and are continuing to investigate the error. the contractor who deleted the files did so unintentionally, and lawmakers have vowed to look into the issue to ensure it is not repeated in the future.