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Friday, January 27, 2023

House passes bill to improve FAA system that grounded flights

The House on Wednesday passed a bipartisan bill aimed at reviewing and recommending improvements to the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) NOTAM pilot alert system that went haywire earlier this month.  

The NOTAM Improvement Act would create a task force under the FAA to offer solutions aimed at boosting the system’s stability and keeping it safe from cyber attacks.

The FAA was forced to ground all U.S. flights on Jan. 11 for several hours due to a NOTAM system outage, the first nationwide shutdown in more than two decades.

“Following the FAA meltdown earlier this month, it is clearer than ever that improvements must be made to our aviation safety systems,” Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Calif.), who co-led the bill with Rep. Pete Stauber (R-Minn.), said in a statement. 

The bill passed 424-4, marking the third time it has passed the House. The Senate didn’t take the bill up in either of the last two Congresses. 

“I encourage my colleagues in both the House and the Senate to pass my legislation before another failure of the NOTAM system occurs. Our pilots, crew members and passengers are counting on us,” Stauber said on the House floor.

The task force would consist of pilots, airline and airport industry executives, union officials, air traffic controllers and other aviation and computer system experts. 

The bill’s passage comes as Congress gears up to reauthorize the FAA’s funding for five years. Aviation experts hope that lawmakers will provide the agency with more money to upgrade its archaic systems. 

The FAA said last week that the NOTAM outage was caused when government contractors unintentionally deleted files while working to improve the system’s databases. The FAA said it didn’t find any evidence of a cyber attack or nefarious actors but would continue to investigate.  

“The FAA made the necessary repairs to the system and has taken steps to make the NOTAM system more resilient. The agency is acting quickly to adopt any other lessons learned in our efforts to ensure the continuing robustness of the nation’s air traffic control system,” the agency said in a statement. 

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