FAA orders temporary pause in U.S. flight departures due to computer outage

The Federal Aviation Administration has ordered airlines to hold up all U.S. departures until at least 9:30 a.m. EST due to a computer outage at the agency.

Flights were already being delayed at multiple airports nationwide.

At about 7:20 a.m. Eastern Time, the agency said on Twitter that it had “ordered airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. Eastern Time to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”

The agency subsequently told CBS News the pause has been extended to 9:30 a.m. but doesn’t affect military or medical flights.

At around 8:20 a.m., there were more than 3,700 delays within, into or out of the United States, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. The number was growing quickly.

The agency said in a tweet that it was working on restoring its Notice to Air Missions System (NOTAM).

“We are performing final validation checks and reloading the system now,” the FAA said. “Operations across the National Airspace System are affected.”

At about 7:00 a.m., the FAA said on Twitter that “While some functions are beginning to come back on line, National Airspace System operations remain limited.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted, “The President has been briefed by the Secretary of Transportation this morning on the FAA system outage. There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the President directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. The FAA will provide regular updates.”

Before leaving the White House with first lady Jill Biden, who was heading for a medical procedure, Mr. Biden told reporters, “I just spoke with Buttigieg. They don’t know what the cause is. But I was on the phone with him. … I told them to report directly to me when they find out.

“Aircraft can still land safely, just not take off right now. 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.”

According to CBS News correspondent Nancy Cordes, when asked if there was any evidence of a cyberattack, he responded, “We don’t know” — even though Jean-Pierre had just tweeted that there is no such evidence.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg had tweeted earlier that he’d contacted the FAA about the outage:  

NOTAMs used to be available through a hotline but that was phased out with the internet. The alerts span from mundane information about construction at airports to word about urgent flight restrictions or broken equipment.

— Kathryn Krupnik contributed reporting.

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