January 13, 2023

Chairman Sam Graves & Ranking Member Rick Larsen Promise Vigorous Oversight of DOT Plans to Prevent Another FAA System Failure

Washington, D.C. - Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Sam Graves (R-MO), the Committee’s Ranking Member Rick Larsen (D-WA), and 120 other Members of Congress today wrote Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg seeking answers about this week’s meltdown of a key aviation safety notification system.

The Members wrote, “Over the past year, there have been a series of flight delays and mass cancellations that have caused considerable harm to passengers. While not all of these events have been within the agency’s control, at least some have been due to the FAA’s apparent issues with managing the agency’s air traffic control legacy systems. The failure to improve legacy systems is unacceptable, and the American people expect and deserve better.”

The Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system that failed provides critical aviation safety information to users of the National Airspace System (NAS). The 2018 FAA reauthorization law required the FAA to modernize the NOTAM system. Despite this requirement, the system suffered a complete outage on Wednesday that led to the first complete ground stop of the NAS since 9/11, impacting thousands of flights and passengers.

The Members noted that the FAA’s most recent budget request included nearly $30 million to “eliminate the failing vintage hardware that currently supports [notams].” They stated further, “This shows the FAA was well aware of the issues facing the NOTAM system. Coupled with this week’s failure, significant questions are raised about how long these issues have existed and what is needed to prevent such issues from occurring again.”

The Members asked the Secretary to provide a briefing to Members and detailed responses to a number of questions about the causes of the system failure, the FAA’s response to the problem, the level of resiliency and redundancy built into the NOTAM system, the age of the system’s software and hardware, any recent or planned FAA updates to the system, impacts of the flight delays and cancellations on passengers, and more.

“Given the significant safety and economic impacts these situations present to the American public, we intend to conduct vigorous oversight of the Department of Transportation’s plan to prevent these disruptions from occurring again. Our constituents deserve nothing less.”

Read the full letter here