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The software blamed for FAA outage is three decades old and years from an upgrade, official says

The software that failed and forced the Federal Aviation Administration to ground thousands of flights on Wednesday is 30 years old and not scheduled to be updated for another six years, according to a senior government official.

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This system was installed in 1993 and runs the Notice to Air Missions system, or NOTAM, which sends pilots vital information they need to fly, the official said.

After the FAA was able to get planes flying again, a government official said a corrupted file that affected both the primary and the backup NOTAM systems appeared to be the culprit.

Investigators are working to determine if human error or malice is to blame for taking down the system, which eight contract employees had access to. At least one, perhaps two, of those contractors made the edit that corrupted the system, two government sources said Thursday.

The new revelation raised questions about why the FAA is still relying on software that was introduced the year President Bill Clinton entered the White House.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., was busy Wednesday after an FAA outage canceled and delayed flights.Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images
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Earlier, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the FAA would pinpoint the source of the problem and identify steps to prevent it from happening again.

President Joe Biden ordered an investigation after he was briefed Wednesday by Buttigieg.

Tens of thousands of travelers were left stranded Wednesday after the FAA sent out a tweet at 7:20 a.m. ordering the airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET “to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information” as it worked to restore the NOTAM system.

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The FAA lifted the ground stop around 8:50 a.m., and normal air traffic operations began resuming gradually. But by then airports across the country were already crowded with frustrated travelers and a backlog of flights.





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The software that failed and forced the Federal Aviation Administration to ground thousands of flights on Wednesday is 30 years old and not scheduled to be updated for another six years, according to a senior government official.

This system was installed in 1993 and runs the Notice to Air Missions system, or NOTAM, which sends pilots vital information they need to fly, the official said.

After the FAA was able to get planes flying again, a government official said a corrupted file that affected both the primary and the backup NOTAM systems appeared to be the culprit.

Investigators are working to determine if human error or malice is to blame for taking down the system, which eight contract employees had access to. At least one, perhaps two, of those contractors made the edit that corrupted the system, two government sources said Thursday.

The new revelation raised questions about why the FAA is still relying on software that was introduced the year President Bill Clinton entered the White House.

Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., was busy Wednesday after an FAA outage canceled and delayed flights.Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images

Earlier, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the FAA would pinpoint the source of the problem and identify steps to prevent it from happening again.

President Joe Biden ordered an investigation after he was briefed Wednesday by Buttigieg.

Tens of thousands of travelers were left stranded Wednesday after the FAA sent out a tweet at 7:20 a.m. ordering the airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET “to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information” as it worked to restore the NOTAM system.

The FAA lifted the ground stop around 8:50 a.m., and normal air traffic operations began resuming gradually. But by then airports across the country were already crowded with frustrated travelers and a backlog of flights.





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