Sunday, January 29, 2023

What happens to mid-air flights due to system failure in US?

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Here’s what will happen to the flights that were mid-air when a massive system failure halted air traffic operations across the US on Wednesday.

New Delhi,UPDATED: Jan 12, 2023 00:03 IST

A Westjet Airlines jet lands in front of planes backed up waiting to depart on the runway after flights earlier were grounded during an FAA system outage at Laguardia Airport, New York. (Photo: Reuters)

By Ankit Kumar: Over 1,000 flights across the United States were grounded due to a technical glitch in the Notice to Air Missions system (NOTAM), which provides information to flight crews about hazards, changes to airport facilities and other essential information. The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) swung into action to restore the system and air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the US.

But what about the flights that were mid-air when the system failure halted air traffic operations?

Landings of flights already in air could be delayed due to logistics issues at the airports, but were not largely affected. Many flights that were airborne before the issue was reported continue to fly without any problems.

Access to live NOTAM system is important, but it is not the only guiding system required for flights. Uninterrupted ground contact and an alternate guiding system are also needed.

READ | Flights across US grounded due to computer glitch: What we know so far

According to the FAA, all flights currently in the sky are safe to land. Pilots are given NOTAM before they fly, not necessarily during the flight. They receive manual instructions for recent changes.

As for now, departures from two airports in the US have resumed. However, the technical glitch has also affected flights to the US from other countries. The longer NOTAM systems take to restore, more delays and more cancellations are expected.

ALSO READ | All flights across US grounded over massive system outage

Meanwhile, the US has categorically ruled out the cyber attack angle linked to the unprecedented system failure.

Earlier in the day, in an advisory, the US civil aviation regulator said its NOTAM system had failed. There was no immediate estimate for when it would be back. Experts have been advocating removing non-essential data from NOTAM and to modernise the system.

“Normal air traffic operations are resuming gradually across the US following an overnight outage to the Notice to Air Missions system that provides safety info to flight crews. The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem,” the FAA said in its latest update on the massive system failure.

Quearn – Do QnA

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