US House of Reps passes Bill to improve FAA NOTAM system

A United Airlines aircraft takes off.
InSapphoWeTrust from Los Angeles, California, USA, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

LONDON – Following the recent outage of the FAA’s NOTAM system, which saw flights across the continental United States grounded; the US House of Representatives has introduced a new bill to improve the safety notification system.

The bill to improve the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) pilot safety notification system was approved today by the U.S. House of Representatives last week. 

The aviation bill which specifically addresses the NOTAM (Notice to Air Mission) system follows the January 11, 2023, NOTAM system failure.

Commenting on the issue, Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO) noted the problems which included what he described as a “leadership vacuum” in the Administration:

“Today the House passed several bills to strengthen the reliability and effectiveness of the FAA’s NOTAM system and make federal disaster programs work better for disaster victims.”

“The recent NOTAM system meltdown highlighted a huge vulnerability in our air transportation system and underscores the need to address the leadership vacuum at FAA.”

“As a professional pilot, I use the system on a regular basis, and I know first-hand all the importance of ensuring that it’s reliable and functional.”

“Congressman Stauber’s bill will help institute much needed improvements to the FAA’s NOTAM system, and Congresswoman González-Colón’s bills will lead to more transparency and less red tape in disaster programs.”

The NOTAM Improvement Act

H.R. 346, the NOTAM Improvement Act of 2023, introduced by Rep. Pete Stauber (R-MN), will establish an FAA taskforce to determine what improvements should be made to the NOTAM system.

The system alerts pilots of potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the safety of the flight.  

In the wake of the January 11, 2023, failure of the NOTAM system, Rep. Stauber included updates to his legislation to ensure the stability, resiliency, and cybersecurity of the NOTAM computer system are also considered by the taskforce.

“Failures of the NOTAM system earlier this month stressed the need to upgrade the program to ensure the safety of pilots, their crews, and passengers,” said Stauber.  

“I’ve heard from many pilots over the years about the vulnerabilities of the NOTAM system and my bill has previously passed the House twice.”

“It’s now time for the Senate to act and pass this important legislation before another failure of the NOTAM system occurs.”

The 11 January incident

Earlier this month, the system failure in the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) computer system resulted in the grounding of all flights across the continental United States.

Throughout the evening of January 10, and into the early morning of 11 January, flight operations were able to continue with the use of telephone communications replacing the computerised system.

However, the sheer weight of traffic through the later morning period resulted in the grounding of flight operations. Over 20,000 flights were scheduled for departure that day, representing almost 3 million potential seats.

Following the subsequent investigation into the causes of the outage, the FAA released the following statement on January 19:

“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.”

By Len Varley - Assistant Editor 4 Min Read
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