WASHINGTON – Normal flight operations are starting to resume hours after the Federal Aviation Administration announced a major system outage that led to a nationwide ground stop for thousands of flights, and with severe weather threatening parts of the South on Thursday, travelers could be in for a chaotic couple of days when it comes to air travel.
Early Wednesday morning, the FAA said there was an outage with the NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system, which is an important notice that contains essential information to personnel connected to flight operations.
The FAA spent hours working to repair the system and ordered the ground stop while those repairs were ongoing.
It was the first nationwide ground stop ordered by the FAA since the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001.
U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said he had been in contact with the FAA about the major system outage while they were working "swiftly and safely" so air traffic could resume normal operations.
Just before 9 a.m. EST, Buttigieg said the system had been fully restored, and the previous nationwide ground stop was to be lifted effective immediately.
"I have directed an after-action process to determine root causes and recommended next steps," he said in a tweet.
Earlier Wednesday morning, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre also released a statement and said President Joe Biden had been briefed on the ongoing situation with the FAA and said there was no evidence so far that this was the result of a cyberattack.
More than 8,100 flights were delayed during the outage, and the FAA said that all flights already in the air were cleared to continue their journeys and land safely.
This is because pilots check the NOTAM system before taking off to learn about any potential issues, like closed runways, equipment outages and other potential hazards.
Southwest Airlines said its flight operations were impacted by the nationwide ground stop on Wednesday and warned passengers that flight disruptions would continue.
As a result, Southwest Airlines said any of its passengers traveling on Wednesday would be able to change their flight for travel within 14 days of the original travel date without having to pay additional charges.
Check the Southwest Airlines website for more information.
Flight delays could have ripple effect across US
As normal flight operations slowly start to get back to normal, these delays will likely have a ripple effect across the country – even if thousands of other flights weren't affected.
This is because of where airplanes were when the ground stop was issued.
Suppose a flight was delayed early Wednesday in New York, for example, and that flight was headed to Los Angeles. In that case, the scheduled flight from Los Angeles to another airport could be affected because of the aircraft's late arrival.
Aviation experts say the combination of the potential disruptions increases the likelihood that a plane's crew will time out because of strict FAA rules that limit the hours pilots and flight attendants can work without a break.
"Without a deep bench of pilots to call up from reserve, flights will experience long delays or cancellations," said Kathleen Bangs, a former commercial airline pilot and current FlightAware spokeswoman.
This could also become an issue for anyone traveling in areas Wednesday to try and beat the severe weather threat expected Thursday in parts of the Southeast, including the Atlanta area.
There is a risk of severe thunderstorms Thursday afternoon and evening across Alabama and Georgia, including the Atlanta metro.
Damaging wind gusts and brief tornadoes are possible.
Ground stop in US affects international air travel
"We had actually partially boarded our flight and was sitting in the chair, and we were told we had to get off the flight because all flights going into the United States have been grounded because of the issues that the FAA is having," Lawrence told FOX Weather meteorologist Jason Frazer on Wednesday.
Lawrence said airport passengers had been patiently waiting for information about upcoming flights.
"It's very early in the morning, so folks are just sitting down and waiting," he said. "We had a discussion with the pilot as we were getting off the plane, and he was saying this was the first time he has seen this kind of stoppage for this particular system."