- The Washington Times - Wednesday, January 11, 2023

The Federal Aviation Administration said Wednesday it was safe for planes to land and that it made “progress” in restoring a major pilot notification system after an unprecedented outage grounded flights across America in the early morning.

The FAA said it resumed departures at airports in Atlanta and Newark, New Jersey, and that normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually across the U.S. after the overnight outage of the Notice to Air system.

“The ground stop has been lifted. We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem,” the agency tweeted.

The unusual shutdown sparked a scramble to get planes back in the air, while President Biden ordered Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to investigate.

“I told them to report directly to me when they find out,” Mr. Biden said at the White House before 8 a.m. “They don’t know what the cause of it is. They expect in a couple of hours they’ll have a good sense of what caused it and will respond at that time.”

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said there was no evidence of a cyberattack as of early Wednesday but the investigation was ongoing.

SEE ALSO: DOT forwards thousands of customer complaints to Southwest Airlines, sets 60-day deadline to respond

FlightAware, a key tracking site, reported over 4,500 delays within, into or out of the U.S. and over 800 cancellations as of 9:40 a.m.

Passengers in London reported they were stuck on the tarmac at Heathrow Airport for over three hours because of the outage before their flight took off for Dallas, according to CNN.

The notice system provides pilots with vital safety information on potential hazards and airspace restrictions.

Airports told passengers to check with individual airports about the status of flights.

The trade group Airlines for America said the outage was “causing significant operational delays” while major carriers like United Airlines and American Airlines said they delayed flights and were working with the FAA to minimize disruptions.

The morning chaos was the latest headache for flight travelers. Southwest Airlines had a holiday-period meltdown, forcing it to process thousands of requests for refunds.

Some political figures blamed Mr. Buttigieg, a potential Democratic 2024 presidential front-runner if Mr. Biden declines to run, as responsible for the shutdown.

“Mayor Pete doesn’t know what happened or how he is going to fix it,” Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican, said on Twitter. “He shouldn’t be permitted to lead it. From supply chain issues to consistent flight cancellations, the DOT job has become too big for him.”

The U.S. Travel Association, a trade group, called on the federal government to modernize its systems.

“Today’s FAA catastrophic system failure is a clear sign that America’s transportation network desperately needs significant upgrades,” U.S. Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman said. “Americans deserve an end-to-end travel experience that is seamless and secure. And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system.”

• Tom Howell Jr. can be reached at thowell@washingtontimes.com.

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