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How FAA's NOTAM malfunction led to hundreds of flights grounded at Denver International Airport

How FAA's NOTAM malfunction led to hundreds of flights grounded at Denver International Airport
How FAA's NOTAM malfunction led to hundreds of flights grounded at Denver International Airport 02:53

"Right before we were about to board our plane at eight o'clock in the morning," said passenger Michael Slavin. 

He and his sons were on the way from Orlando to Denver, then to Colorado Springs. 

"They said our connecting flight should be fine. We missed our connected flight by an hour," Slavin said. 


It was another round of flight headaches and the lack of a good answer for many passengers flying out of DIA. 

"I'm just trying to get an hour and a half up the road and they're telling me I've got to wait until 9 o'clock tomorrow night to get home," he said.

The last big nationwide ground stoppage of aircraft in the United States occurred on 9/11.

"This is almost without precedent in the US aviation history," said Metropolitan State University of Denver aviation professor Jeff Price. 

The problem was the Notice to Air Missions system, which serves as a warning coordination about potential flight hazards, closures and issues. 


The FAA said late Wednesday there was still no indication of a cyber-attack and that it had traced the problem to a damaged database file that affected both the primary and backup NOTAM system.

"It's very serious for any aircraft that has not yet taken off.  Not as serious for any aircraft that are already in flight because they can get information from air traffic control," Price said. 

For years Price explained, air carriers have been pushing for improvements, but updating has been limited.


"Something like this is an indication of more than just one system going down. This is a very important system and we need to get the bottom of what other systems might go down," said Mike Boyd, an aviation consultant and president of Boyd Group International. 

Boyd believes FAA management has been behind the curve for a while now. 

"The organization at the top has never been managed really well in the last few years. So as a result of that probably a lot of computer systems have fallen behind." 

Congress indicated it would likely have a look at the problem, but Boyd felt that would be of little help. 

"Boy that's really comforting," Boyd said. 

The FAA is currently headed by an interim administrator because President Biden's pick to run the agency, Phil Washington is still working as head of Denver International Airport after his confirmation was hung up due to his name coming up in a warrant.

This all comes stemming from an investigation into corruption in Los Angeles, where he previously worked, along with concerns about his lack of airline experience. 

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