Oops: FAA Admits ‘Unintentionally Deleted Files’ Caused Jan 11 Mass System Failure, Nationwide Flight Chaos

People pass through Salt Lake City International Airport, Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2023, in Salt Lake City. The world's largest aircraft fleet was grounded for hours by a cascading outage in a government system that delayed or canceled thousands of flights across the U.S. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)
AP Photo/Rick Bowmer

A red faced U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) admitted Thursday its staff “unintentionally deleted files” in a key computer system causing the January 11 commercial airline ground stop, which affected more than 11,000 flights and caused mayhem for travelers.

Reuters reports the FAA said the human error occurred while personnel were working “to correct synchronisation between the live primary database and a backup database”, and it had “so far found no evidence of a cyber attack or malicious intent.”

The system outage occurred on January 10, but the ground stop was not issued until the following morning by which time countless flights were already being grounded or diverted and tens of thousands of domestic fliers were learning of the chaos that lay ahead.

The outage led to the first U.S. nationwide grounding of departing flights since the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

Last week, a group of 120 members of Congress demanded answers from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the FAA about the system fiasco.

The lawmakers, led by new House Transportation Committee chairman Sam Graves, a Republican from Missouri, called the computer outage “completely unacceptable.”

Secretary of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg listens during a press briefing at the White House, Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

File/Some 120 members of Congress are demanding answers from Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and the FAA about the flight system fiasco earlier this month (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

They want Buttigieg and officials to explain what caused the computer failure and what steps are being taken to prevent it from happening again.

FAA acting administrator Billy Nolen plans to hold a virtual briefing Friday for lawmakers and staff who have sought details of what went wrong.

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