Senate to Investigate FAA Outage that Grounded Flights Nationwide

January 11, 2023

Senate Commerce Committee Chair Maria Cantwell (D-WA) said Wednesday her panel plans to investigate the cause of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer outage that sparked a nationwide ground stop, leading to more than 7,000 flight delays and cancellations.

The ground stop of more than 1,200 flights began at roughly 7am eastern time, and nationwide flights did not resume until roughly two hours later, leading to a ripple effect that aviation analysts predicted would cause delays and cancelations through Thursday and possibly Friday.

“We will be looking into what caused this outage and how redundancy plays a role in preventing future outages. The public needs a resilient air transportation system,” Cantwell said.

Soon after the ground stop, the White House said that there was no evidence of a cyberattack, but shortly afterward President Biden said “we don’t know” and told reporters he had directed the Department of Transportation (DOT) to investigate the cause of the disruption.

Shortly past noon, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg reiterated that so far there was no indication of a “nefarious” cause behind the FAA outage, but that the DOT was “not yet prepared to rule that out.”

The FAA has been without a permanent administrator since March 31. The Senate Commerce Committee has yet to hold a hearing on President Biden’s pick to head the agency, Denver International Airport Chief Executive Phil Washington, who was renominated by Biden last week.

Washington has faced criticism from Republicans after he was named in a search warrant tying him to corruption allegations at the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

Earlier this month, Cantwell said the Senate Commerce Committee would hold hearings on the Southwest Airlines meltdown that led to nearly 16,000 flight cancelations over the holidays.

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