FAA implements safeguards to prevent NOTAM-like outages in the future
The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has introduced a series of safeguards to prevent the repeat of the NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) outage that disrupted over 11,000 flights earlier this month. Per Reuters, acting FAA administrator Billy Nolen told lawmakers in a letter that the agency has made changes in its system to prevent corrupt files from damaging the backup database.
Why does this story matter?
- NOTAM is a relatively obscure but integral part of air transportation in the US. Its origin can be traced back to the first half of the 20th century.
- Considering its importance to air transportation, the system has gone through little to no updates over the years.
- This lackadaisical approach is what caused the outage. It portrayed the system's dire need for safeguards and upgrades.
FAA attributed the outage to a computer glitch
The NOTAM outage on January 11 delayed over 9,700 flights, while more than 2,800 were canceled. The outage was caused by a computer glitch. In a statement to Congress, FAA attributed the glitch to the unintentional deletion of some key files by contractors working on synchronizing the primary live database and a backup database. According to Reuters, Nolen expanded on this in his letter.
FAA has implemented a one-hour delay for synchronizing databases
Nolen admitted that FAA played a part in the outage by trying to restore the deleted files. To prevent incidents of this nature, FAA has adopted a one-hour delay in the synchronization of databases, which should block errors from reaching the backup database. The agency also made it mandatory for at least two individuals to be present during NOTAM maintenance, including a federal manager.
NOTAM has two conjoined parts
NOTAM is responsible for providing pilots and other personnel updates about conditions that could affect the safety of the flight, including runway closures, birds in the airspace, and other safety hazards. According to the FAA letter, the present NOTAM system is made up of two interdependent parts, the legacy US NOTAM system and the Federal NOTAM System (FNS).
Legacy NOTAM will be phased out by mid-2025
In his letter, Nolen also talked about the upgradation of the NOTAM system. FAA began modernizing NOTAM in 2019. By 2025, it plans to discontinue the legacy US NOTAM system. The second phase of NOTAM's modernization is expected to be completed by 2030. The FAA added that it has conducted three assessments of the system since 2020.