Hundreds of flights impacted at Philadelphia International Airport after FAA computer system failure

Passengers at PHL started to see the departure screens change to "delayed" and "canceled" around 7 a.m.

Thursday, January 12, 2023
Hundreds of flights impacted in Philadelphia after FAA system failure
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Passengers at PHL started to see the departure screens change to "delayed" and "canceled" around 7 a.m.

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- A computer system at the Federal Aviation Administration went down early Wednesday morning, leading to a nationwide ground stop on all domestic departures.

That pause was lifted at 9 a.m., and operations gradually resumed. Still, the problem impacted thousands of flights across the country.

Hundreds of those impacted flights were out of Philadelphia International Airport. Many were delayed, but dozens of those flights were canceled.

The FAA computer system that went down is known as NOTAM - Notice to Air Messages. It alerts pilots of issues that could impact their flights.

"Part of what you saw this morning was an act of caution to be sure until it was 100% airtight that the system was working properly, even just for delivering messages," said Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg.

Without the critical information, the FAA made the rare move to call that nationwide ground stop.

Passengers at PHL started to see the departure screens change to "delayed" and "canceled" around 7 a.m.

"They were like, all the flights are going to be delayed," said Selena Vazquez of Mayfair.

"We just got the update that it changed. Now our 10:45 is now a 12:30," said Carley Rettbeg of Voorhees, NJ. "We'll get there eventually."

With no one able to fly out, things quickly backed up inside.

"The line to check in my bag was the longest I've ever been in on any flight, and I fly several times every year. So that was a little shocking," said William Mualem of Deptford, NJ.

By 7 p.m., there were at least 19,000 delays nationwide and at least 2,800 cancellations.

"I knew I was doomed," said Mike Pobok of Queensbury, NY, whose flight out of Philadelphia was delayed.

"The flight we were supposed to take from Minneapolis at 7 p.m., it got delayed twice for three hours. We were sitting there waiting for the flight and then it got canceled," said Nathan Gehrke of Issaquah, Wa.

President Biden has directed the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation. Officials have already blamed an antiquated NOTAM system.

The White House doesn't believe it was a cyberattack.