FAA: Contractors Mistakenly Deleted Files, Causing Security System Outage

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The Federal Aviation Administration said on Thursday that contractors working on a system that notifies pilots of potential risks “unintentionally deleted files,” leading to a nationwide plane shutdown and thousands of delays last week.

The agency said it is continuing to investigate and has updated Congress on the latest findings as lawmakers demand answers about the cause of the outage.

The system distributes bulletins called Notices for Air Missions and is a patchwork of new technologies and components that are three decades old. In its advisory on Thursday, the FAA said contract workers were trying to fix synchronization between an active database and a backup system when the problem started.

The system began to fail in the afternoon of January 10, and efforts to restore it failed in the evening. In the early hours of January 11th, the agency decided to reset the system and order a nationwide suspension of air travel – the first of its kind since 9/11. Air traffic was soon back on track, but delays continued throughout the day.

FAA system glitch brings new round of disruptions to US air travel

The FAA said its preliminary review found no evidence of a cyberattack or malicious intent.

The outage highlighted the aging computer systems that aviation safety depends on. It is not yet clear how the error could bring down the entire reporting system, but the FAA said it has corrected the system and taken steps to ensure it is more resilient.

“The agency is moving quickly to adopt any further lessons learned in our efforts to ensure the continued robustness of the nation’s air traffic control system,” the FAA said.

The outage came after Southwest Airlines had thousands of flight cancellations in December, a problem it blamed on outdated technology.

The two incidents have intensified scrutiny over the aviation system in Congress as lawmakers prepare to craft a multi-year funding package for the FAA.

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