Update: While the FAA is still investigating the cause of the outage, they have traced that flight blackout to what is being called a "damaged data file," per NPR.
Original story follows: US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg oversaw a rebranding of the FAA’s NOTAM system that failed Wednesday, delaying thousands of flights, so that its language would be “more inclusive.”
The acronym previously stood for "Notices to Airmen" but in December 2021, Buttigieg's office had it changed to "Notices to Air Missions," according to the Daily Mail.
According to the FAA, the new name is a "more applicable term" that is "inclusive of all aviators and missions."
The system has also been undergoing "modernization" over the last few years.
Following the outage on Wednesday that grounded all departing flights in the US, a measure that has not been taken since 9/11, the FAA said in a statement, "The FAA is continuing a thorough review to determine the root cause of the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Our preliminary work has traced the outage to a damaged database. At this time, there is no evidence of a cyber attack. The FAA is working diligently to further pinpoint the causes of this issue and take all needed steps to prevent this kind of disruption from happening again."
It is unclear if the ongoing "modernization" played a role in the failure or how much of the process has been completed.
The FAA said in a December 22 post that the transition would be done in two phases "Format Familiarization Enhancement" and "ICAO NOTAM Format Transition" in order to "improve the delivery of safety-critical information to aviation stakeholders."
There is no digital backup for the system and pilots were forced to resort to a previous version of the system and call flight service centers for updates when the system failed.
The overwhelming amount of calls led to the FAA grounding all flights.
Buttigieg was slammed for Wednesday’s failure, yet another crisis during his tenure in the Biden administration.
The former presidential candidate and mayor of South Bend, Indiana, who was handpicked by President Joe Biden to lead the Transportation department, has been criticized by officials on both sides of the political spectrum for his handling of shortages in the supply chain to massive commercial airline delays.
Most recently, Buttigieg was criticized for vacationing in Porto, Portugal, while his agency and the White House were negotiating with rail worker unions to avoid a strike that could have crippled the supply chain headed into the holiday season.
Buttigieg was also widely criticized for the 2021 supply chain crisis during which ships were forced to wait off the California coast for unloading due to onshore backlogs caused by a trucker shortage, during which he took several months off for paternity leave.
Many questioned "Mayor Pete's" appointment by Biden as his tenure in South Bend, Indiana, had been marred by ineptitude including needing the help of Domino's Pizza to fix potholes in the city.
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