Durham man caught up in nationwide FAA computer meltdown

Josh Chapin Image
Thursday, January 12, 2023
Durham man caught up in nationwide FAA computer meltdown
Travelers see delays at RDU following FAA computer outages on Wednesday.

RALEIGH, N.C. (WTVD) -- The short flight from Raleigh Durham International to LaGuardia Wednesday morning turned into an odyssey for Josh Cox.

He boarded the first plane twice only to get deplaned twice before they put him on another flight.

Though he was supposed to leave after 7 a.m., he didn't get off the ground until 1:45 p.m. and he had to fly in to JFK airport instead.

"If they knew that there weren't any planes taking off, why did they load us up," Josh said over Zoom from the Bronx Wednesday evening. "I don't know what their protocols are."

All protocols were thrown into chaos when a computer issue with an FAA critical flight system caused thousands of delays.

The issue started with the failure of NOTAM or the "Notice to Air Missions" system which provides critical hazard information to pilots, airport operators and air traffic controllers.

"Is there any parachute activity going on 15,000 feet below the route? Is there an aerobatic activity going on within a mile of the airport route? Are there runway lights out?," asks Sai Huda, cybersecurity expert and CEO of Cyber Catch. "The system was down. They're saying it does not appear to be a cyber attack but they are investigating."

Huda believes this should be a wake up call for the FAA about the real threats of cyber attacks.

Coincidentally, Canada's air hazard notification system also experienced a brief disruption Wednesday.

"We have to stay vigilant and understand that we're under an even greater threat now," Huda said. "It's digital, it's magnified, anybody can attack us from thousands of miles away."

Josh, a Durham pastor, is hoping his flight back to RDU on Friday is a bit smoother.

"The last time I tried to fly was over the holiday and I was flying the day Southwest shut down across the country," he said. "The moral of the story: don't travel with me."

In total more than 10,000 flights were delayed. More than 162 of them were at RDU.