Domestic flights resume after being grounded across the country including Rochester

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — Domestic flights are resuming after being grounded on Wednesday morning across the U.S. due to the Federal Aviation Administration experiencing a computer outage.

At 9 a.m. Eastern Time, the FAA lifted its order to pause flights which included those at the Greater Rochester International Airport. The FAA says the pause was to “allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information.”

You can see live updates about the FAA outage from here and see the status of flights at the Rochester airport here.

The FAA says things are mostly back to normal. The outage happened at the busiest time of the day at the Rochester airport.

Nikisha Hughes, and her family were supposed to fly to JFK to catch a connecting flight to Punta Cana, in the Dominican Republic. Hughes says she got a rude awakening at the airport.

“I got a text message this morning, and it says that my flight was still on time, and everything. I didn’t find out that it was delayed until I got to the airport,” said Hughes.  

After the ground hold was lifted, once delayed flights from JFK started arriving in Rochester. Passengers on the flight say they were stuck there for 2-hours, and received limited information on the computer outage.

“They just came on the intercom, and said that there was an air traffic control issue so that they had to delay all the flights,” said Rochester resident Kristen Kremblas.

Aaron Reese, also from Rochester added “You could tell everybody was wondering what was going on cause there was not a lot of information at the airport.”

Austin Okoase shared with News10NBC what the pilots told to passengers during the ground stoppage.

“Pilot basically said they keeping getting notifications that you’re 30 minute delayed. It keeps getting 30 minute delays. That’s because the computer got like shut down, and need to make sure all the flights are grounded nationally,” said Okoase.

“I have waited here for four hours to catch my plane,” said Judith Spaulding, whose flight got delayed.

Spaulding was on her way back home to Sacramento after coming to town to visit family. That is until the FAA’s air missions systems completely went out overnight, delaying and even canceling thousands of flights across the country.

“Finally decided that if I don’t get out today, if I wait too long there will be no flights out tomorrow. So I booked my flight for tomorrow morning and I’m ready to go,” Spaulding said.

Rochester airport director Andy Moore says the issue put his staff in a tough position.

“We have 45 flights departing today and we had about 13 to 14 delays and a couple cancellations. so that’s about 28 percent of our total departure flights have been delayed or canceled,” Moore said.

He says the outage caused widespread delays and the airport is trying to keep people as comfortable as possible.

“From time to time, things will happen as we’re all dependent on technology these days,” Moore said. “But I can’t remember in recent memory of this type of an impact that has affected the entire national air system across the country.”

If you were affected by today’s outage, Moore says to work with your airline on your options. Meanwhile, the FAA said it is continuing to look into what caused the outage.

From NBC News:

Flights across the United States resumed Wednesday after the Federal Aviation Administration suffered a computer outage that forced it to halt all departures nationwide while it scrambled to resolve the issue.

The FAA announced that the ground stop had been lifted at around 8:50 a.m. and that normal air traffic operations were resuming gradually while it continued to look into the cause of the problem. But delays and cancellations had already spread across the country after the agency said its Notice to Air Missions, or NOTAM, system had “failed.”

More than 5,400 flights within, to and out of the U.S. were delayed as of around 10:30 a.m. Wednesday, according to the online flight tracker FlightAware. More than 940 flights were listed as canceled.

Click here to follow the live coverage.

The FAA had said in a tweet just before 7:20 a.m. that it was ordering airlines to pause all domestic departures until 9 a.m. ET “to allow the agency to validate the integrity of flight and safety information” as it worked to restore the NOTAM system.

In subsequent updates, it said that all flights in the sky were safe to land.

“Pilots check the NOTAM system before they fly. A Notice to Air Missions alerts pilots about closed runways, equipment outages, and other potential hazards along a flight route or at a location that could affect the flight,” the FAA said.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a tweet that there was “no evidence of a cyberattack at this point,” and added that President Joe Biden had directed the Department of Transportation to conduct a full investigation into the causes. She added: “The FAA will provide regular updates.”

A senior law enforcement official told NBC News the FBI was seeing no evidence that a cyberattack caused the outage. Cyber security experts say the most common cause of problems like this is a bad software update. The cause of Wednesday’s incident is still unclear, however.

“Today’s FAA catastrophic system failure is a clear sign that America’s transportation network desperately needs significant upgrades,” U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman said in a statement Wednesday. “Americans deserve an end-to-end travel experience that is seamless and secure. And our nation’s economy depends on a best-in-class air travel system.

“We call on federal policymakers to modernize our vital air travel infrastructure to ensure our systems are able to meet demand safely and efficiently,” he said.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a tweet that he had “been in touch with FAA this morning about an outage affecting a key system for providing safety information to pilots.”

United Airlines said earlier it had temporarily delayed all domestic flights. It said it would issue an update when it learned more from the FAA about the situation.

Southwest Airlines said it was “closely monitoring” the situation and that it “may impact the start of operations” Wednesday.

“An FAA system outage is causing ground stops at AUS and other airports across the country,” the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport said in a tweet.

“Arriving & departing passengers can expect delays this morning & through the day,” it said, adding: “Please stay in contact with your airline & check your flight status before heading to AUS.”

The news came after a number of social media users said they had been affected by the situation.

Heather Allen, 32, was meant to fly from New York City to Seattle with her fiancé to visit her family for a delayed holiday visit. She was watching a movie on her plane and still on the tarmac at John F. Kennedy International Airport when she and other passengers were told to get off their Delta Airlines flight.

She said she learned of the outage by reading the news on Twitter and had been on the plane for about an hour before she had to deplane.

“Trying to be patient, but feeling frustrated,” Allen said. She said the situation at the airport was “not currently chaotic, but could be if delays are longer.”

The issue also appeared to have affected some flights to the U.S.

A number of airports outside the U.S. said operations were continuing as normal, but the international airport operator Aéroports de Paris, or Airports of Paris, said all flights by American airline companies had been delayed. It said non-American airlines were flying out as normal without interruption.

Air France said all of its U.S.-bound flights were operating as planned and were not affected by the FAA computer outage. It said it continued to monitor the situation.

“As far as we are aware, we are still operating to/from the U.S. at the moment,” a spokesperson for Gatwick Airport in London said.

A spokesperson for Frankfurt Airport in Germany said the FAA outage had not affected its operations.