AA Tells Senate Panel About New Procedures to Protect Against NOTAM Outages
Let’s be clear: the issue was not contractors, it was the failure by the FAA to realize that pilots accessing NOTAM information was a go/no-go for flying and that any changes/update to the data files was a potentially disastrous event. File Integrity Management tools and processes have been around for a long, long time but often are not used on the files and executables that need to be the most resilient.
In a hearing before the US Senate Commerce Committee, the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA’s) acting administrator Billy Nolen said that the agency has taken steps to help prevent a repeat of the January 11 Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system outage. Nolen told the panel, “After the incident, we implemented a synchronization delay to ensure that bad data from a database cannot affect a backup database. Additionally, we have implemented a new protocol that requires more than one individual to be present and engaged in oversight when work on the database occurs.”
It still comes down to people, process, and technology. People: were the contractors, and FAA personnel for that matter, sufficiently trained to understand and maintain a critical flight system used by the aviation industry? Process: was the update sufficiently QA’ed/tested prior to implementing on both active/backup NOTAM system? Technology: let’s not forget, the NOTAM system is 30 years old; it can be difficult to find qualified engineers to maintain. Which brings us back to people.