Aviation warning system that crashed was already a pain for pilots


The US aviation warning system that crashed for more than an hour on Wednesday traces. Its origins to ocean-going ships and has been under constant reform for years, experts say.

At least one aviation industry group has called for it to be replaced .

The Federal Aviation Administration grounded all flights due to an unspecified failure in. The Notice to Air Mission (NOTAM) system. NOTAMs issue near-constant initials and acronyms to alert pilots to potential hazards. From parachutes and bad weather to legal airspace restrictions and flocks of birds.

By Wednesday evening. The company had traced the problem to a damaged database file and there was no evidence of a cyber attack, it said.

The White House also said it had seen no signs that the NOTAM system had been taken down as a result of the cyber attack. The Department for Transport is conducting a “full investigation” into the root cause.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said . The outage lasted about an hour and a half. But the FAA’s website that lists NOTAMs was accessible as of Wednesday afternoon.

Whatever the cause of the failure. The NOTAM system has long been a source of frustration for pilots and. Others in the aviation industry who say . It overloads them with information irrelevant to. Their flights and makes it difficult to identify actually useful information.

NOTAM notifications rely on a complex string of codes and abbreviations. That share information such as dates and. locations of potential problems for a pilot to read before a flight.

The OPS Group, an industry conglomerate of 8,000 flight professionals. Has made streamlining the NOTAM system a top priority. The group runs a website called Death to Notums.

NOTAMs are modeled after similar warning systems for ships. Which the US Navy began publishing in print in 1869. Aviation authorities began issuing NOTAM alerts through telecommunications channels in 1947.

As U.S. aviation grows, NOTAM warnings are issued to. Pilots before every flight, said Thomas Anthony. Director of the University of Southern California’s Aviation Safety and Security Program. And each of those airports can provide information that leads to a NOTAM.

“To give you an idea, there are 13,512 airports in the United States,” Anthony said.

“The complexity of the system is mind-boggling,” he added.

In 2018, Robert Sumwalt, then-board chair of the US National Transportation Safety Board. Said NOTAMs were “a bunch of junk that nobody pays attention to.”

That year, Congress passed a bill requiring the FAA to reform the NOTAM system. Including creating a machine-readable interface to give pilots and other flight professionals . Options to streamline their delivery.

That process, which is still ongoing . Requires many types of legacy software programs to communicate with each other.

The status of the FAA’s NOTAM reform is unclear, and the FAA did not respond to requests for comment about it. They’re “still going,” Anthony said.

OPS Group spokesman David Mumford said in an email that in the interest of safety. Flights would need to be grounded if the NOTAM stopped working.

But Wednesday’s failure only highlighted his group’s cause, he said.

“Once again, we see how old and weak the Notum system is!” she said.


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