US FAA adopts new safeguards in response to system failure

The US Federal Aviation Administration adopts new safeguards to prevent a repeat of the January 11 system-wide outage causing flight cancellations and delays at airports worldwide.

Several new procedural safeguards have been adopted by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in response to the system-wide computer failure on January 11, which resulted in the first US nationwide grounding since September 11, 2001.

The safeguards are designed to protect the database functionality of the critical pilot safety alert system, Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM), according to a letter written by the acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen, as reported by Reuters on Monday.

NOTAM is made up of two interdependent database systems; a primary live system, and a 30-year-old legacy system.

The outage was triggered when contracted personnel unintentionally deleted files in one of the systems.

The FAA said that during an attempt to fix the synchronization between the two databases after the files had been deleted the system crashed.

The new safeguards will require a “one-hour delay when synchronizing the two databases to prevent data errors from immediately reaching the backup database," stated Nolan.

Procedures will also “requires at least two individuals to be present during the maintenance of the NOTAM system, including one federal manager," the letter stated.

All of the contractors involved in the outage were kicked off the NOTAM system by the FAA last week.

The agency also had said it would establish a task force to address the failure.

The legacy database system is set to be discontinued by mid-2025 as part of a NOTAM modernization plan that began in 2019.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg told Reuters Monday the government needs to "pick up the pace" on its efforts to modernize aviation computer systems.

The US nationwide grounding disrupted more than 11,000 U.S. flights.