The US Federal Aviation Authority ordered a temporary halt to all domestic flights on Wednesday after a major systems failure disrupted air travel across the country.
Airlines and airports have been deluged with news of the nationwide pause as the White House said there was no immediate evidence of a cyberattack.
The FAA, which paused flights until 9:00 a.m. (2:00 p.m. GMT), said a key process was “impaired” after an issue with its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system, which notifies flight crews of hazards Airport facilities and other important information.
The pause, it said, would “allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”
Speaking to reporters, President Joe Biden said he was briefed by the Secretary of Transportation and that “planes can still land safely, just not take off now.”
“They don’t know what caused it, they expect in a couple of hours they’ll have a good sense of what caused it and will react at that point,” Biden said.
“The FAA is still working to fully restore the Notice to Air Missions system following an outage,” the agency said in a statement, adding that “some functions are beginning to come back online, but operations of the National Airspace System are.” remains restricted.”
– Thousands of delayed flights –
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre tweeted, “There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this time.”
“The President has directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. The FAA will provide regular updates,” she said, referring to the Department of Transportation.
As of 8:00 a.m. US Eastern Time (1300 GMT), at least 3,500 flights were delayed in the United States, data from flight-tracking website Flight Aware showed.
American Airlines said it is “closely monitoring the situation affecting all airlines and is working with the FAA to minimize disruption to our operations and customers.”
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he was in touch with the FAA.
“I contacted the FAA this morning regarding an outage affecting a key system used to provide safety information to pilots,” he tweeted.
“The FAA is working to resolve this issue quickly and safely to allow air traffic to resume normal operations and will continue to provide updates.”
The stop comes after a large-scale aviation meltdown in the United States over the holiday season, when a storm brought unseasonably cold temperatures to most of the country and caused chaos, with thousands of flights delayed or canceled.
Badly hit Southwest Airlines canceled more than 15,000 flights in eight days after allegedly experiencing an outage in its planning systems.
© Agence France-Presse