Ground stop lifted; Hundreds waiting to board at Phoenix Sky Harbor after FAA failure

Biden spoke out about the outage, saying he had been briefed by Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg.
The FAA's system was down Wednesday morning, causing any plane not already in flight to be grounded until computers were back up and running.
Published: Jan. 11, 2023 at 6:32 AM MST|Updated: Jan. 11, 2023 at 6:27 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5/CNN) -- The Federal Aviation Administration halted all domestic flight departures across the United States Wednesday after the system providing pilots with pre-flight safety notices went offline.

The FAA said in a statement it had ordered airlines to stand flights down until at least 9 a.m. Eastern Time (7 a.m. Arizona time) while it tried to restore its NOTAMS -- or Notice to Air Missions -- system. The ground stop was lifted just a few minutes before deadline.

At Phoenix’s Sky Harbor International, delays and cancellations could be seen scattered across airport flight monitors. As of 11 a.m., almost 60 flights had been canceled with more than 200 reported delays. Check the status of your flight here. “We are performing final validation checks and repopulating the system now,” an earlier FAA statement said. “Operations across the National Airspace System are affected. We will provide frequent updates as we make progress.”

The association representing U.S. airlines, Airlines for America says the outage is “causing significant operational delays.” United Airlines said it has temporarily delayed all domestic flights. American Airlines said in a statement it is “closely monitoring the situation, which impacts all airlines, and working with the FAA to minimize disruption to our operation and customers.” US President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the situation and was in touch with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

“I just spoke with Buttigieg,” he told reporters as he departed the White House. “They don’t know what the cause is. But I was on the phone with him the last 10 minutes. I told them to report directly to me when they find out. Aircraft can still land safely, just not take off right now.” He continued, “They don’t know what the cause of it is. They expect in a couple of hours they’ll have a good sense of what caused it and will respond at that time.”

Asked whether it was a cyberattack, Biden said: “They don’t know. They will find out.” Earlier, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement that there was “no evidence of a cyberattack at this point,” but that Biden had ordered a Department of Transportation investigation. FlightAware, which tracks delays and cancellations, showed nearly 7,539 delays to, from and within the United States as being delayed as of 11 a.m. ET, and 1,161 flights canceled so far.

International flights bound for the United States were continuing to take off from Amsterdam and Paris despite the situation. A Schiphol Airport spokesperson told CNN that “a workaround had been issued,” and flights were still departing from Amsterdam. No flights have been canceled from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, but delays were expected, according to the airport’s press office. Frankfurt Airport also told CNN it had not been impacted. A London Heathrow Airport spokesperson told CNN that they were “not aware of canceled flights and that flights to the U.S. had left recently,” however there were passenger reports of significant delays.

Shabnam Amini told CNN that she and other travelers had been sitting on board Americans Airlines flight 51 to Dallas for almost three hours at Heathrow because of the FAA outage. She said they had been informed that there were delays but were still boarded onto the aircraft. Commercial airline pilots use NOTAMS for real-time information on flight hazards and restrictions. The FAA stipulates NOTAMS are not to be relied on as a sole source of information, and so some flights may be able to satisfy safety requirements by using other data.

Wednesday’s incident is the second significant crisis to hit US aviation in a matter of weeks. A huge winter storm over the end-of-year holidays caused extensive disruption and helped trigger a Southwest Airlines meltdown that affected thousands of passengers.

More than 3,700 flights were delayed, and more than 640 were cancelled.