Acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen appeared Wednesday before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation. The hearing entitled “The Federal Aviation Administration’s NOTAM System Failure and its Impacts on a Resilient National Airspace” was in response to the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage on January 11, 2023, which paused all domestic departures. The FAA stated the outage was caused when “contract personnel unintentionally deleted files while working to correct synchronization between the live primary database and a backup database.” Nolen testified that the FAA “has implemented a new protocol that requires more than one individual to be present and engaged in oversight when work on the database occurs” and is continuing to investigate the outage.
In response to recent incidents involving air carrier aircraft and ATC in the National Airspace System, Acting Administrator Nolen announced that he is forming a Safety Review Team to examine the U.S. aerospace systems, structure, culture processes, systems, and integration of safety efforts. The initial focus will be to hold a safety summit to examine what additional actions the aviation community needs to take to maintain our safety record. According to the announcement, a group of commercial and general aviation leaders, labor partners, and others will examine what mitigations are working and why others do not appear to be as effective.
While much of the hearing focused on the NOTAM issue and the FAA’s ongoing efforts to modernize the system, questions also covered the issue of broader systems modernization, including NextGen, UAS integrations, 5G implementation, and several other topics. In addition, the Acting Administrator discussed the challenges of maintaining legacy systems while implementing modern systems. Additional questions also focused on the upcoming FAA Reauthorization Bill and how Congress can help the FAA.