Meeting Profs Travel Report: FAA Falls Down, U.S. Air System Goes Boom

people waiting in line at airport in dalaman, turkey

The shutting down of flights across the United States this week due to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system malfunction raised more questions than there were provided answers.

The FAA said that a “corrupted file” created the shutdown which sent airlines all across the nation into a tailspin of cancellations and rebookings and a lot of waiting in airline terminals with no answers.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement, “There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point.”

President Biden ordered an investigation and Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg echoed passenger incredulity by asking, “How is it possible for there to be this level of disruption?” to CNN’s Andrea Mitchell.

Questions and Calls for Funding

On Twitter, cyber analysts and security experts debated the possibility of a digital strike causing the shutdown, but they also stated that even if this wasn’t a deliberate attack, it showed potential cyber attackers exactly where we were vulnerable.

Admiral James Stavridis, USN, Ret. said on Twitter (@stavridisj): “The airline national stoppage may or may not be a cyber-attack, but even if it is not, it certainly shows us what one could look like. Good wake-up call.”

William J. McGee, senior fellow for aviation and travel at The American Economic Liberties Project in Washington, D.C., and a frequently quoted source for this column, released a statement on Twitter that read: “While the causes of this morning’s outage of the critical NOTAM system are still being determined, one thing has long been true: the FAA is chronically underfunded and does not have all the resources necessary to adequately support our national aviation system.

“That is a direct result of efforts by the airline industry and their allies in government to starve an essential agency. We look forward to the results of a thorough investigation to determine whether underfunding contributed to this morning’s latest crisis and to inform a long-overdue national conversation about the state of commercial aviation in the U.S.”

On Friday, Delta’s CEO, Ed Bastian, echoed the sentiments in an interview with CNBC’s “Swawk Box”: “I lay this on the fact that we are not giving them the resources, the funding, the staffing, the tools, the technology they need to modernize the technology system. Hopefully this will be the call to our political leaders in Washington that we need to do better,” he said. 

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