FAA Otto Pilot


There was a national stoppage of all flights Wednesday morning because of a corrupted file in the Federal Aviation Administration’s computer system.

We all recall the Southwest meltdown a few weeks ago which grounded thousands of passengers and stranded people in airport terminals for days. Wednesday’s meltdown wasn’t the fault of any airline, though I’m sure airline employees at ticket counters received earfuls of complaints.

What happened was… Airline officials noticed a database issue Tuesday afternoon and decided the best way to fix it was to reboot the entire system. The FAA literally did what they do in “The IT Crowd,” a British sitcom about a corporation’s IT department, whose first comment upon answering their phones, and eventually became their outgoing message, “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”.

The manager of the IT department in the show doesn’t know anything about computers or what “IT even stands for. Her two-man crew once gave her a box to display during a speech that they claimed contained the entire internet. Maybe that’s what’s going on with the FAA. Currently, nobody’s in charge of the FAA. OK, that’s not true, but the Senate has yet to confirm a director of the agency. Maybe they should get on that. The top job in the FAA is filled by an interim director after Trump’s appointed goon left, but sycophantic moron Louis DeJoy is still running the Post Office into the ground. Go figure. Dammit, we are the IT Crowd.

Back to turning it off and back on again, which is what a reboot is but sounds so much better than “we unplugged the system and waited 30 seconds before plugging it back in. If you’re still in the air, good luck finding Denver.” By the way, Johnny in “Airplane!” did unplug the runway lights.

They turned it off and back on, but did it on a Wednesday morning because that’s one of the slowest days for air travel which you should take note of because flights can be cheaper on Wednesdays, and a lesser chance of being stuck in the middle seat between two fat guys on a Southwest flight for a layover at Midway. The FAA figured rebooting on Wednesday would cause the least disruption. As it turned out, they had to stop all departures for about two hours.

The computer system that failed was the central database for all NOTAMs (Notice to Air Missions) nationwide. Those notices advise pilots of issues along their route and at their destination. It has a backup, which officials switched to when a problem with the main system reared its ugly head. Yeah, about that backup… it had a corrupt file too. My theory is that someone at the FAA was downloading a lot of porn.

The FAA is assuring us there was not a cyberattack but maybe they should go with that because it’s probably less embarrassing than the porn thing.

The stoppage was ordered at 7:30 a.m. eastern time. Flights still in the air were told good luck by air traffic controllers who kept a static electronic or paper record at their desks of the active notices. We’re fortunate that the sky didn’t become like that 1980s arcade game Asteroids, where the ship is dodging objects flying straight at it. The technology for that game is probably the same for today’s FAA. The reboot lasted 90 minutes which tells us the FAA is still using Windows 95 (damn, I’m dating myself in this blog).

Republicans were quick to blame Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and you know they really want to say “this wouldn’t have happened with a straight Transportation Secretary.” Jim Jordan did tweet that this never happened under Donald Trump, but Gym needs to shut up become Covid happened under Donald Trump. Unlike Trump, the Biden administration doesn’t ignore huge problems that hit the nation.

Shit happens. I think we blame Buttigieg (who’s one of the smartest people in government) if they don’t update the system, which was NOT updated during the Trump administration. Remember when Trump complained that President Obama didn’t restock the national stockpile of medical supplies to deal with a nationwide medical crisis, though Trump had three years to do so himself? Hell, Trump even blamed President Obama for not leaving a supply of tests for Covid-19, never mind the fact that the virus didn’t develop until three years after President Obama left office. So using the Trump standard, it’s his fault the FAA system wasn’t updated.

As for other Republicans, they complain about the FAA meltdown while trying to reduce funding for the agency. Republican expertise with aviation stops at renaming airports after Ronald Reagan (which was a slap in the face to flight controllers because Reagan fired over 11,000 of them). If the GOP had its way, they’d fund the FAA with those tiny bags of peanuts you used to get on flights (they’ve since updated to airline brands of Check-Mix and I knew I’d eventually get a peanut joke in here somewhere).

I would trust Otto from the film “Airplane!” to land a plane before I’d trust any Republican. Surely, Republicans can’t be taken seriously.

Music note: I listened to Verbena.

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8 comments

  1. Most companies have weekly or monthly reboots, or at least people on the payroll to deal quickly with computer program problems. Computers are not something one can say, “Don’t mess with it, it’s working good right now,” But having these IT people on the payroll can look like a finacial drain because things are going good. THAT should not be messed with,
    Rogers Mobile in Canada recently had a huge meltdown, and most emergency services in the country stopped functioning — not to mention cell phones stop working and credit cards became unusable — because of glitches in the programming.
    Who or what is going to be bext?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. One has to wonder how many points of entry there are to the system, one corrupt file from someone should be easy to trace in this day and age, but making changes cost $$ and the GOP/MAGAts won’t give it unless they cut from somewhere else. Sad state you are in for the next 2 years, but I’m 100% behind Pete to get it fixed. Cheers

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  3. The reboot lasted 90 minutes which tells us the FAA is still using Windows 95 (damn, I’m dating myself in this blog).

    Dude, you are ~not~ thinking nearly old enough. Think IBM mainframe. Probably – TPF

    TPF is the programming language that former computer reservation company programmers’ used to support Delta/Northwest and TWA reservations systems circa 1996. TPF is a step up from machine language run on really old school IBM mainframes. The Delta data center just off the runaway at the ATL airport. The systems were so mission critical they started their Y2K project – very EARLY. That’s because you can book a reservation 364 days in advance. Data center at that point could not be without power. Back up power were 4 train engines in the basement for a fail-over.

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  4. Reblogged this on It Is What It Is and commented:
    Not a good look at all!! … “The computer system that failed was the central database for all NOTAMs (Notice to Air Missions) nationwide. Those notices advise pilots of issues along their route and at their destination. It has a backup, which officials switched to when a problem with the main system reared its ugly head. Yeah, about that backup … it had a corrupt file too.”

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    1. Your reply is helpful. Yes, they are making backups of their database. In old school mainframe days – restore from backup in a test environment- MAY have detected issue.
      We just don’t know about the system architecture and database software or any interface(s) that might have corrupted. But it’s a good thing we don’t know. Easier to hack if common knowledge. Like when the vendor supplied default database password was NEVER changed by Equifax. Password was in vendor documentation online.

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