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FAA Outage: What is NOTAM? How its failure disrupted thousands of flights across US?

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Thousands of flights in the United States were disrupted after a computer outage in the Federal Aviation Administration system, which provides pilots with necessary pre-flight notices that they are required to read. Known as NOTAM, or Notice to Air Missions, the system was unable to provide information to flights, leading to chaos.

According to Reuters, the total number of flights disrupted topped 10,900 and was still increasing, however, airline officials expressed confidence that normal operations could largely return by Thursday.

The outage forced a 90-minute halt to all US departing flights, which forced the US aviation authorities to temporarily ground all domestic flights across the country on Wednesday, leading to thousands of delays and cancellations.

As per FAA’s latest update, it said, “We are continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack.”

What is NOTAM?

A NOTAM is a notice that contains information that is important to personnel involved in flight operations, but it is not known well in advance that it will be issued by some other means. It indicates the abnormal status of a National Airspace System (NAS) component, not the normal status, according to the FAA website.

NOTAMs address the establishment, status, or change of facilities, services, procedures, or hazards on the NAS. It indicated the real-time and abnormal status of the NAS, which impacts each user, and has a unique language with special contractions to make a more efficient communication.

In 1947 it was agreed that NOTAM would be issued via telecommunications. NOTAMs were modeled after the Notice to Mariners, which alerted ship captains to the dangers associated with navigating the high seas.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is the leading authority on contract standardization in the international aeronautical community. When there is no ICAO contraction, plain language is used.

Without NOTAMs, the aircraft could collide with a flock of birds and remain unaware of the slippery conditions on the runways.

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