Buttigieg defends FAA decision to ground planes after system outage

A plane parked at a gate at Orlando International Airport on Wednesday.
A plane parked at a gate at Orlando International Airport on Wednesday. (Lou Mongello via Reuters)

According to the FAA, a national system that has experienced disruptions, air mission notifications — delaying departing flights across the U.S. — are essential notifications for pilots and flight crews.

“Air task notifications alert pilots to runway closures, equipment outages, and other potential hazards along the route or at locations that could affect flight,” according to FAA.

Commercial airline pilots use the NOTAM system to obtain real-time information on flight hazards and restrictions. The FAA stipulates that the NOTAM system cannot be used as the sole source of information, so some flights may use other data to meet safety requirements.

It is independent of the air traffic control system that keeps planes at a safe distance from each other, but it is another vital tool for aviation safety.

“It’s like telling a truck driver that the road ahead is closed. That’s the key message,” said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant with Boyd Group International.

Although many flights do not require seeing one of these notices, it is important that the NOTAM message reaches the pilot, who is trained to check for these notices.

The acronym was formerly known as Notice to Airmen, but changed in December 2021 to “include all pilots and missions” and send a notice to drone operators.

The FAA also operates the nation’s air traffic control system, in which air traffic controllers use radar to track all planes in their airspace and radio communications with the cockpit to guide them safely. Computer systems, the backbone of the ATC system, have also been known to fail. But when that happens, it usually only affects one region of the country, not the entire national airspace.

CNN’s Chris Isidore reported on this article.

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