Aviation industry warned FAA system is 'a disorganized catch-all' years ahead of failure
A trade group has been urging for better backups to the system whose failure earlier this week led to a brief air traffic outage.
For years before this week's ground stop of U.S. air travel, aviation industry stakeholders have been sounding the alarm on the system that was at the heart of the technical failure.
Amid the system glitch that occurred on Wednesday, the National Business Aviation Association — a trade group of more than 11,000 aeronautics companies and professionals — issued a statement urging the Federal Aviation Administration to modernize the Notice to Air Missions, or NOTAM, system.
"NBAA has been urging the FAA to enhance the resiliency of the NOTAM system since 2018 and ensure that there are strengthened backup capabilities in the event of an outage like the one experienced today," a the group said in a Jan. 11 statement. "The NOTAM outage makes clear that when problems are identified, they must be met with proven solutions, so that America retains its world-leading aviation system well into the future."
The FAA said in a statement Wednesday that it had tracked the failure to a damaged database file, but according to a CNN report Thursday, the NOTAM database at the center of the failure is "30 years old and at least six years away from being updated," and that the glitch was caused by "personnel who failed to follow procedures."
A 2020 briefing slideshow by the AIS Industry Coalition for then-FAA chief operating officer Teri Bristol outlined the challenges facing the current NOTAM system and industry's concerns around information dissemination.
The presentation called NOTAM "one component of a larger underlying problem," centered on the inability to manage a growing volume of data and the lack of a central FAA point of contact with regard to information services and other concerns.
The NOTAM system also appeared to have an inability to parse or filter information, contained inefficient categorization capabilities and "lacks organization, rendering it a disorganized catch-all with no priority hierarchy."
The agency is also overseeing an effort to transition NOTAMs to standards established by the International Civil Aviation Organization, which began in 2018 and remains ongoing with completion set for 2024.
The FAA is set to spend $3.2 billion on information technology in fiscal year 2023 according to budget estimates, with more than $2.7 billion of that funding going to support upkeep of legacy systems as well the modernization and migration of legacy tech to the cloud.