How the Air Mission Notification system that caused chaos on US flights works

REFERENCE FILE IMAGE. An electronic screen shows canceled flights at John F. Kennedy International Airport, in New York, USA, December 26, 2021. REUTERS/Jeenah Moon (JEENAH MOON/)

Thousands of flights were delayed this Wednesday in the US due to a fault in the Notification system for Air Missions (NOTAM, in English) of the federal aviation of the country, in charge of sending security alerts in real time to the pilots.

First thing in the morning, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA, for its acronym in English) reported that it had ordered the suspension of all domestic flight departures until 9:00 a.m. Eastern time in the country (2:00 p.m. GMT) due to a breakdown in this computer system.

Shortly before that time, the FAA lifted its order and indicated that air traffic was gradually resuming, although flight delays within, to and from the US have only accumulated and are now 6,743, according to the website. flightaware.

The FAA explains on its website that NOTAM is a national mechanism for sending warnings and notices about flight hazards to all commercial pilots.. This tool, which is also used by military flights, is different from the air traffic control system that ensures that planes maintain a safe distance from each other.

The NOTAM system “contains information that is not known sufficiently in advance of a flight to be delivered to the pilots in advance,” the FAA details about this own system.

Some examples of NOTAM alerts may be the closure of runways at the airport or the failure of its lights, restrictions in the airspace or interruptions in the navigation signal.

A Southwest Airlines plane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)
A Southwest Airlines plane lands at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Va., on Friday, Dec. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File) (Carolyn Kaster/)

Before leaving, pilots should always consult possible NOTAM alertswhich may affect the flight.

Given its ability to quickly transmit data on a change in conditions, NOTAM is an essential tool to ensure safety on board.

The system has been in use since 1947 when the US agreed that all flights should adopt this mechanism, modeled on the system used to communicate information to ship captains when they are at sea.

Before adopting its current name in December 2021 -Air Mission Notification system- it was called “Notification to Airmen”, although its acronym, NOTAM, has always been the same in English.

The name change was made to remove any gender reference and because at that time notifications were also sent to drone operators and not only to pilots on board aircraft, the chain indicated. CNN.

For now, the reasons that caused the failure of the system are unknown and the FAA is investigating it.

White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierreindicated that so far “there is no proof of a cyberattack” and stressed that the president Joe Biden ordered the Department of Transportation a full investigation to find out the causes.

This is the first time that the US has suspended domestic flight departures since the attacks of September 11, 2001.

With information from EFE

Keep reading:

Europe will soon allow phone calls on flights and the United States is considering following in its footsteps