February 15, 2023

Duckworth Presses FAA Acting Administrator on Cause of January’s Nationwide Ground Stop


[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), member of the U.S. Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation (CST) and Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation, today questioned Federal Aviation administration (FAA) Acting Administrator Billy Nolen on the cause of January’s nationwide ground stop—the first since September 11, 2001—and what the FAA is doing to eliminate single points of failure that can cause a systemwide shutdown. This hearing comes after thousands of flights were canceled last month due to the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Duckworth’s remarks are available here.

“As a pilot, one thing you learn is that a safety system should never be left vulnerable to a single point of failure. Never. Redundancy saves lives,” Duckworth said. “That’s why I’m so alarmed that a single contractor could crash the NOTAM system by simply deleting files. That sounds like a single point of failure. … It is FAA’s job to keep our airspace safe, but it is impossible for FAA to do this unless its systems have appropriate redundancies.”

As the Chair of the Subcommittee on Aviation Safety, Operations and Innovation, one of Duckworth’s core priorities is to strengthen safety and hold FAA accountable for finally modernizing air traffic control technology. Last week Duckworth participated in her first CST hearing as the Subcommittee Chair, calling out Southwest Airlines for the company’s lack of transparency, the unacceptable wait times that customers were forced to experience and its refusal to heed warnings that could have helped prevent this meltdown before it ever happened.