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Flights delayed at CHO after 'unprecedented' FAA outage

Flights out of Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport were delayed as long as three hours Wednesday morning after an overnight system outage roiled Federal Aviation Administration operations nationwide.

More than 9,000 flights to, from and within the U.S. were delayed due to a failure within the FAA’s Air Missions System, which allows airports to send alerts to pilots and engineers. The FAA has said that, while an investigation is ongoing, the outage appears linked to a corrupted computer file.

The FAA said in a statement issued at 7:15 a.m. on Wednesday that it had grounded all flights as a result of the outage.

“This is unprecedented,” Charlottesville-Albemarle Airport CEO Melinda Crawford told The Daily Progress Wednesday. “There hasn’t been a nationwide ground stop since 9/11.”

Four out of 16 flights scheduled to depart from CHO Wednesday morning were delayed from 45 minutes to three hours before regular air traffic resumed, the airport said.

Although nationwide groundings are rare, Crawford said there are best practices in place to help travelers.

“The protocol for when that happens is for us to make sure that the restaurant and gift shops are staffed and that concessionaire is there,” Crawford said. “We also have our staff and customer service individuals out and ready to help, although they cannot answer questions for the airline.”

Normal operations at most of the nation’s 19,200 airports began to resume by late Wednesday morning. However, several of the larger airports with connections to CHO were reporting delays and cancellations well into the afternoon. Those included LaGuardia Airport in New York, Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport and Charlotte Douglas International Airport.

President Biden ordered the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation into the causes of the FAA outage, the president’s press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet Wednesday morning. Jean-Pierre also said that there is no evidence of a cyberattack.

By Wednesday evening, the FAA said early evidence suggested a “damaged database file” was behind the system failure.

“The FAA is continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage,” the agency said in a statement. “Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database file. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyberattack. The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again.”

The investigation is ongoing.


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