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Federal Aviation Administration computer error grounds domestic flights, departures resume

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 11, 2023

BOZEMAN — Things got a little turbulent at the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport this morning when flight departures were paused due to a computer failure.

Two brothers, Aaron and David Gilin were hanging around the airport today as they awaited their flight home to New York. They said it’s been tough lately, flying and hoping to make it on schedule.

“I’ve definitely been having more delays and issues,” said Aaron.

“We spoke to someone outside whose flight was canceled and we have a friend who was supposed to fly out a few hours ago,” said David. “I think he’s still waiting.”

The Gilins' flight left after the Federal Aviation Administration experienced a technical issue with their system called “NOTAM” or Notice To Air Missions.

“It’s used to provide information to pilots about various navigational aid and airport conditions,” said airport manager, Brian Sprenger. “A very important system to let pilots know about conditions of their flight.”

This system just so happened to glitch.

“They put this information out to all the airlines,” said Sprenger.

This resulted in a nationwide pause on all domestic departures until about 7 AM.

“But fortunately for us in Montana, in the mountain time zone, that meant 7 o’clock was the time frame that aircraft could start flying again,” said Sprenger.

Sprenger says most of their flights are after 7 AM so there wasn’t a huge impact.

The assistant airport manager for the Bert Mooney airport in Butte, Rick Ryan says they didn’t have a single flight delayed. The airport’s first commercial flight didn’t leave until after the FAA lifted the pause on departures.

But of course, these are smaller airports.

According to the website “Flight Aware”, there were more than 7,300 delays and 1,100 cancelations midday across the U.S. The FAA system outage contributed to those numbers.

That can be compared to the current outage crisis that threw Southwest Airlines and its customers for a loop during the holidays. The software is overdue for replacement.

“We’ve definitely had our share of looking at different hurdles so far, this one seems to be minor and hopefully any coming up will be minor as well,” said Sprenger.

As for the Gilin brothers, they said they’ll remain patient when it comes to delays as airlines prioritize the safety of pilots and passengers.

“It definitely sucked having to travel for 12 hours instead of four last week but things happen, as long as everyone’s safe,” said Aaron.