Acting FAA chief to testify before US Senate panel on computer crash

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, February 8 (Reuters)The acting head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will testify on February 15 before the US Senate Commerce Committee about a January 11 computer system outage that disrupted more than 11,000 US flights, sources told Reuters.

Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen told lawmakers the last time month as the the agency has make a change in the system to prevent a corrupted file from damaging a backup database, after the agency found that the outage occurred when contract staff “accidentally deleted files.”

The outage prompted the FAA to halt departing flights for about two hours, the first nationwide ground shutdown since the Sept. 11, 2001, al-Qaeda attacks on the United States.

JThe FAA did not immediately comment Wednesday night. Nolen has served as the FAA’s acting administrator since April 1.

Last month, the The FAA told lawmakers it revoked access to a pilot email database by contractor personnel who unwittingly deleted files in the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) database. The NOTAM system provides pilots, flight crews and other users of US airspace with critical safety notices.

Nolen tells lawmakers that attempts to restore these files contributed to the outage and since then the FAA has adopted a one hour delay in database synchronization which should prevent data errors from reaching the backup database immediately.

The NOTAM system consists of two interdependent systems, the old US NOTAM system, which is 30 years old, and the new federal NOTAM system.

The main database and a backup database are located in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, And two additional backup databases are in Atlantic City, New Jersey.

The FAA began modernizing the NOTAM system in 2019 “and is expected to discontinue the legacy US NOTAM system by mid-2025. Phase two of the NOTAM system modernization is expected to be completed in 2030,” the letter states.

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Sandra Maler and Leslie Adler)

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