FAA says “accidentally deleted files” led to computer failure

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The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said Thursday that a preliminary investigation found contract workers “unintentionally deleted files” disrupting an important computer system and leading to a nationwide ground freeze on Jan. 11 that disrupted more than 11,000 to flee.

The FAA said the problem occurred while staff were working “to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database.” The FAA said it “has so far found no evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent.”

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FAA Acting Administrator Billy Nolen plans to hold a virtual briefing on Friday for lawmakers and staff who have been seeking details of what went wrong with a pilot message database that led to the first nationwide grounding of departing flights since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

US Congress Investigates FAA Computer Failure That Caused Flights

Last week, the agency said the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) messaging system computer malfunction was caused by a procedural error related to a corrupted data file. The NOTAM system provides pilots, aircrew and other users of US airspace with critical safety messages.

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The FAA said it has made necessary repairs to the system “and has taken steps to make the pilot messaging system more “resilient.”

The system failure occurred on January 10, but the FAA ground stop was not issued until the following morning.

Last week, a group of more than 120 U.S. lawmakers told the FAA that the computer malfunction was “completely unacceptable” and demanded the agency explain how it will prevent future incidents.

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The staff of the Senate Commerce Committee also asked the FAA answer questions about the malfunctionincluding, “Why were airlines put in a position where they had the option to choose to operate when the NOTAM system didn’t work?”

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