The FAA’s failure halts flights nationwide, and the buck stops nowhere.
By The Editorial Board – Jan. 12, 2023 6:40 pm ET – The Wall Street Journal
The Little Elf Himself – Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks to the Transportation Research Board gathering in Washington, Jan. 11.PHOTO: MANUEL BALCE CENETA/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Only a couple of weeks ago, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg roasted Southwest Airlines for problems that led to thousands of canceled flights. Yet Mr. Buttigieg was no model of contrition Wednesday after airlines were grounded nationwide by a mega-meltdown at the agency he oversees, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
“This is an incredibly complex system,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “Glitches or complications happen all the time.” Those are words of great comfort, no doubt, to any travelers who missed grandma’s funeral. The cause of Wednesday’s fiasco was a failure in the FAA’s clunky decades-old Notice to Air Missions (Notam) system. Notam gives alerts to pilots before they take off, for example, if taxiways are closed for maintenance.
But a systemwide crash is not a glitch. At first the FAA resorted to a telephone hotline to keep planes flying, but this backup quickly became overwhelmed. On Wednesday morning the FAA grounded all flights while it rebooted Notam.
Some airlines, including JetBlue and Delta, believed that operations could continue despite the Notam outage, according to a Journal report. Pilots say the alerts often are irrelevant and unintelligible, and JetBlue reportedly developed a backup system because of a past Notam outage.
The FAA’s ground stop, which lasted nearly two hours, caused more than 1,300 flights across the U.S. to be canceled and at least 9,700 to be delayed. The agency blamed the Notam outage on a corrupted database file, though it’s also still investigating. Officials say there’s is no evidence so far of a cyberattack.
But given the importance of the FAA’s mission, this kind of failure is hard to excuse. If glitches happen all the time, why doesn’t the FAA have redundancies? Canada’s Notam system, operated by a nonprofit, experienced apparently unrelated problems Wednesday, but planes there kept flying.
My cmnt: I’m so sick of hearing incompetent democrat bureaucrats tell us their job is to keep us safe. The only way any democrat ever keeps anyone safe is by shutting everything down and demanding we shelter in place. Telling everyone to stop living is not keeping us safe. Fixing the problem and finding a solution is, not just stopping all activity until the problem goes away on its own. Oh look, we democrat politicians just stopped all street crime by not letting the law abiding citizen leave his home. Oh look, we fixed the food shortage by only letting people eat one meal a day. Oh look, we fixed runaway inflation by making everyone so poor they cannot buy anything. Oh look, we flattened the curve by destroying 100,000 small businesses, decimating the American and world economies, keeping children out of school for two years, and making old people die alone in the nursing homes. A democrat solution is always worse than the problem.
“Our responsibility is to make sure that everybody is safe, and we’re always going to err on the side of safety,” Mr. Buttigieg said. “When there’s an issue in FAA, we’re going to own it, we’re going to understand it, and we’re going to make very clear what’s needed in order to fix it.” But the FAA’s antiquated systems have long created headaches, albeit ones less glaring to the public.
Congress in 2003 mandated that the FAA implement a NextGen modernization plan by 2025, and it has given the agency money for upgrades. Yet an Inspector General report in 2021 found that many FAA updates were delayed because of poor planning. The Notam overhaul has been slow.
We’ve argued for years that Congress should transfer air-traffic control and related systems to a private entity, as Canada did in 1996. This would provide more accountability, meaning that aging systems would get modernized faster.
Unlike airlines, the FAA doesn’t have to pay a price for its foul-ups. When problems with Southwest’s outdated scheduling software forced it to cancel thousands of flights after Christmas, Mr. Buttigieg threatened to punish the airline and insisted it fully refund passengers. When the government is at fault, airlines and travelers are out of luck.
Mr. Buttigieg’s “safety first” mantra is misdirection to distract from the FAA’s repeated failures. Recall how the FAA a year ago threatened to ground flights if wireless carriers turned on 5G C-Band spectrum near airports. The agency claimed the 5G signals could potentially interfere with plane altimeters that measure the distance to the ground.
The Federal Communications Commission disagreed when it authorized the 5G deployment some 20 months earlier, and the FAA didn’t raise concerns until weeks before the spectrum was set to go live. Wireless carriers ultimately agreed to pause part of their rollout. The FAA on Wednesday gave airlines until February 2024 to retrofit their altimeters, which it estimated would cost $26 million.
This is a fraction of the $80 billion that wireless carriers paid for the C-Band spectrum, as well as the cost of the two-year delay. Will the FAA compensate them? Of course not. Glitches happen all the time.
Makes sense that Buttguy’s pappy is a communist…sonny’s only accomplishment are his alt-sexuality and hiding his “hubby” from the media.
Young Petey unfortunately is thoroughly incompetent. Add to that useless: witness going missing on paternity leave for 2 months and no one noticing. Another politician getting paid to do nothing rather like Di Feinstein who surely should be term limited.
Like most of this administration, he can dish it out, but he can’t take it. Typical of the government we elected. Just another example of the ineptitude. But we’ll take all of it and more, because we don’t know any better, and they know it.
Glitches and complications is apt renaming for the DOT under the Biden/ Buttagieg regime. By the way a crash like this had never happened prior to Petey.
Sorry, as you should have learned when Obama was officially running things he could not be criticized because of his skin pigmentation. With little Petey no criticism is allowed due to his sexual preferences. The idea of hiring based on qualifications NEVER occurs to leftists.
Another governmental failure worthy of a third world nation. Just another milepost signaling America’s accelarating descent to that status and history’s dustbin.
When you select a diversity candidate who is a moron to run a large administrative organization, what do you expect? Woke only accepts victimhood, not responsibility.
He must have had experience with the bus system in South Bend.!!! He reached the “Peter Principle” some time in high school and has the work ethic of a crippled snail. He has one positive point – he doesn’t giggle as much as Kamela.
But he’s working on the giggles.
There’s so much to criticize Buttigieg for, it’s hard to know where to begin. Like so much of this administration, he was selected not for any remotely relevant expertise but for his intersectionality score. He has demonstrated again and again that he knows essentially nothing about our complex, multimodal transportation systems, and less about executive management. The failure of the NOTAM system was an annoyance, but with minimal effort all pilots have access to all the relevant information by other means. The nationwide ground stop was a hysterical overreaction by incompetent political app…
“Mr. Buttigieg said. “Glitches or complications happen all the time.”
The NOTAM system is basically a messaging app.. It doesn’t manage flight plans. It doesn’t provide spacing.. it does not even facilitate communication.
This is not that hard. We can bring a booster back from orbit and land it in the center of a barge. But managing a message board is beyond our skill level?
many FAA updates were delayed because of poor planning.
These are the type of improvements the private sector does in their sleep, but in the public sector this is the kind of result we have come to experience as normal operations.
Private companies deliver lower cost AND higher quality through innovation and competency driven by competition. The public sector is the exact opposite with higher costs and lower results, yet we keep voting for more of this.
100 years ago the cost of government (Federal, State and local combined) was <10% of GDP. Now it is over 50% because we voted for people who made it so.
The only good news is that Mayor Pete is already too busy de-racializing the roads to give much thought to this issue.
The FAA did fix NOTAM. It used to stand for “Notice to Airmen”. Now is stands for “Notice to Air Missions.” In other words, its woke but it’s broke.
Everything MayorMommy has touched has become a catastrophe.
Marine shipping, rail air, trucking, all disasters.
You would think he would grow tired of failing, and resign.