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How a Software Glitch Grounded US Flights and What Businesses Can Learn from it

Updated: Nov 26, 2023

On 11 January 2023, the US experienced a major disruption in air travel when the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) reported an outage of the system that alerts pilots to any obstructions before take-off.


The system, known as NOTAM (Notice to Airmen), provides critical information to pilots about runway closures, weather conditions, airspace restrictions, and other hazards that may affect flight operations.


According to the FAA, the outage was caused by a software glitch that prevented the system from updating and distributing new NOTAMs. The agency said it was working to fix the problem and restore normal service as soon as possible.


However, the outage had a ripple effect across the country, as thousands of flights were delayed or cancelled at major airports such as New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and Atlanta. Some passengers were stranded for hours on planes or at terminals, while others had to reschedule their travel plans or find alternative modes of transportation.


The FAA said it allowed some flights to resume after verifying that they had received the latest NOTAMs before the outage. The agency also said it was investigating the root cause of the glitch and taking steps to prevent it from happening again.


The incident raised questions about the reliability and security of the FAA's systems, which are vital for ensuring the safety and efficiency of air travel in the US. Some experts suggested that the outage could have been a result of a cyber attack or a human error.


The FAA said it had no evidence of any malicious activity or external interference with its systems. It also said it had backup procedures in place to handle such situations and ensure continuity of operations.


The incident was one of the biggest cyber security incidents of 2023, as it exposed the vulnerability of a critical infrastructure that millions of people depend on every day.


Some possible lessons and recommendations for businesses based on the FAA incident:

  • Businesses should ensure that their systems are regularly updated and tested for any glitches or vulnerabilities that may affect their performance or availability.

  • Businesses should have backup systems and procedures in place to handle any unexpected outages or disruptions and minimize their impact on customers and operations.

  • Businesses should monitor their systems for any signs of malicious activity or external interference and report any incidents to the relevant authorities and stakeholders.

  • Businesses should conduct periodic reviews and audits of their systems and processes to identify and address any gaps or weaknesses in their security and resilience.

  • Businesses should invest in training and awareness programs for their staff and partners on how to prevent, detect, and respond to cyber threats and incidents.


The FAA incident of 2023 was a major disruption that affected millions of travelers and exposed the vulnerability of a critical infrastructure. It also served as a reminder of the importance of cyber security and resilience for businesses of all sizes and sectors. By learning from this incident and implementing the recommended lessons and best practices, businesses can improve their preparedness and response to any future cyber threats or incidents.

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