Sunday, June 23, 2024

US Experiences Near 9/11 Level Flight Grounding, No Evidence Of Cyber Attack Yet; Operations In India Likely To Be Unaffected

By Aritra Banerjee

As the global civil aviation sector attempts to maintain stability following a massive blow due to the COVID-19 pandemic, another major blow struck the recovering industry in the United States. Over 10,000 flights were delayed/cancelled following a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) outage however operations in India are unlikely to be affected.

There have been speculations of a potential cyber attack being the cause of this. However, US regulators have dispelled these views. The domestic aviation industry in the US found itself struggling to return to normalcy after the FAA imposed a nationwide stop in response to a computer issue which resulted in a 90-minute halt of all flights waiting for departure.

This was the first national ground of flight in over two decades, with several industry officials drawing parallels to the measures taken during the 9/11 terror attacks.

According to data by FlightAware, an American multinational technology company that provides real-time, historical, and predictive flight tracking data and products, over 10,000 flights were delayed, and there was a cancellation of over 1,300 flights.

What Was The Tech Issue?

The computer issue that plagued the FAA prevented airports from filing updated safety notices. These safety notices warn pilots of potential hazards that might temporarily lead to halted flights. These include everything from adverse weather conditions, runway closures, construction etc.

A preliminary review by the US aviation regulator, the FAA, found damage to the database file. According to FAA officials, there is no evidence pointing to a potential cyber attack, and that investigations are presently underway. It may be poignant to note that the database file was corrupted in both the main system as well as the backup.

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre Tweeted: “There is no evidence of a cyberattack at this point, but the President directed DOT to conduct a full investigation into the causes. The FAA will provide regular updates.”

However, Maria Cantwell, the US Senate Commerce Committee Chair, said the panel would investigate the matter. At the same time, Senator Ted Cruz described the development as “completely unacceptable. FAA officials have stated that they are working further to pinpoint the causes” so that such an issue does not recur.

What Is The Impact On Flights In India?

The massive delays of cancellation of flights in the US are unlikely to affect operations at Indian airports; however, Air India might face challenges. According to the Indian aviation watchdog, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), operations are normal at Indian airports, and “as of now, there does not seem to be a cause for concern” regarding mid-air traffic disruptions in the US.

Air India operates direct flights to five cities in the US; as a result, the airline could face some delays in its flights from the US owing to possible congestion at the runway, highlighted an official from the airline.

The airline operates around 51 flights to various American cities weekly and is the only Indian carrier to have direct services to the US, with flights to New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington and San Francisco.

United Airlines, a major American airline headquartered in Chicago, has since issued a statement saying that the FAA has lifted the nationwide ground stop and the airline has resumed operations.

While British carrier Virgin Atlantic said, some of its departures to the US may be affected by delays. “We’re working closely with the relevant authorities and, following careful assessment, continue to operate our schedule of US flights departing from the UK.”


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