FAA says 'unintentionally deleted files' led to NOTAM system outage

FAA says 'unintentionally deleted files' led to NOTAM system outage

The Federal Aviation Administration said Thursday that last week's computer system outage, which caused thousands of flight delays across the United States and a temporary grounding of the nation's airspace, appears to have been the result of "unintentionally deleted files."

"A preliminary FAA review of last week’s outage of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system determined that contract personnel unintentionally deleted files while working to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database," the FAA said in a statement. "The agency has so far found no evidence of a cyber-attack or malicious intent. The FAA continues to investigate the circumstances surrounding the outage."

"The FAA made the necessary repairs to the system and has taken steps to make the NOTAM system more resilient," the FAA added. "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."

MORE: US flights grounded because engineer accidentally 'replaced one file with another': Official

The FAA's NOTAM system is critical to flight operations -- it keeps pilots informed of essential information that's needed before takeoff, such as runway conditions at destination airports, weather en route and even real-time safety alerts during flight. Notably, the system is overdue for replacement.

When the FAA first reported an issue with the NOTAM system late in the night on Jan. 10, it led to a "cascading" series of IT failures culminating in the nationwide disruption the next morning, a senior official briefed on the matter official told ABC News. By mid-day, there were more than 7,300 flight delays and 1,100 cancellations, according to tracking website Flight Aware.

MORE: What is the FAA's NOTAM computer system that led to widespread problems?

The official compared the NOTAM system outage to the crisis that crippled Southwest Airlines over the winter holidays: antiquated software overdue for replacement inside a critical IT network. If one thing goes down, the system can become paralyzed.

Congressional hearings are expected, as is a possible speed-up of system replacement.

Several airlines, including American, Delta and United, are waiving fees to rebook flights due to last week's disruption.

Amanda Maile, Josh Margolin and Sam Sweeney contributed to this report.

FAA says 'unintentionally deleted files' led to NOTAM system outage originally appeared on abcnews.go.com