Canada briefly hit with similar aviation outage as U.S. flights ‘gradually’ resume

Click to play video: 'Canada also affected by U.S. flight disruptions, experiences similar outage'
Canada also affected by U.S. flight disruptions, experiences similar outage
WATCH: Canada's aviation system experienced a computer outage similar to the one that crippled air traffic in the U.S. Anne Gaviola explains why the outage in Canada had fewer consequences, and why travellers should continue packing their patience in 2023 – Jan 11, 2023

Canada’s aviation system was briefly hit with a computer outage just hours after issues with the same system forced the United States’ Federal Aviation Administration to bring air traffic to a standstill across the country.

However, Canadian officials say they do not believe the cause of the outages are related.

“NAV CANADA’s Canadian NOTAM entry system experienced an outage affecting newly issued NOTAMs at approximately 10:20 a.m. ET and was restored approximately at 1:15 p.m. Mitigations were in place to support continued operations,” said Vanessa Adams, a spokesperson for NAV Canada, in an emailed statement.

“We are still investigating the root cause of the failure. At this time, we do not believe the cause is related to the FAA outage experienced earlier today.”

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Flights in the U.S. are “gradually” resuming following the outage, and NAV Canada said on Twitter that the outage hitting Canadian systems did not cause any delays.

Less than two hours after announcing the outage, which NAV Canada said was affecting “newly issued NOTAMs,” the organization confirmed the system had been “restored.”
Click to play video: 'U.S. flights ‘gradually’ resume after FAA system outage, Biden orders investigation'
U.S. flights ‘gradually’ resume after FAA system outage, Biden orders investigation

Airlines delayed or canceled more than 10,000 U.S. flights on Wednesday after all planes were grounded nationwide for 90 minutes.

In the wake of the U.S. outage Wednesday morning, Transport Minister Omar Alghabra said he is “following” the situation as it progresses.

“I am in communication with the United States Government. Some flights departing from Canada to the US have been affected, however operations are resuming gradually,” he wrote in a tweet on Wednesday.

Before commencing a flight, pilots are required to consult NOTAMs, or Notices to Air Missions, which list potential adverse impacts on flights, from runway construction to the potential for icing. The system used to be telephone-based, with pilots calling dedicated flight service stations for the information, but has now moved online.
Click to play video: 'FAA computer outage leads to mass flight delays, cancellations in U.S.'
FAA computer outage leads to mass flight delays, cancellations in U.S.

The outage held the potential for widespread disruption. All aircraft are required to route through the system, including commercial and military flights.

Speaking during a press conference Wednesday morning, before the Canadian outage was announced, Alghabra said the U.S. outage was “obviously a surprise.”

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“It was an unplanned interruption. We still don’t know all the facts yet,” he said.

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“We are going to stay in coordination with our U.S. partners to understand what had happened and what can we do to avoid similar interruptions.”

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Almost 800 flights are scheduled to fly Wednesday and it’s not yet clear how many have been or could be impacted by the outage, said a spokesperson for the aviation analytics company Ciricum.

“It’s a difficult situation, no doubt, for anybody that wants to fly from Canada to the U.S. or from the U.S. to Canada — around 57,000 passengers based on historical data from Cirium,” said Cirium’s Mike Arnot in an interview Wednesday morning.

Cirium provides the data that informs the flight status displayed on boards at airports, Arnot explained.

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“It’s a highly unusual event for the NOTAMs system to go down,” Arnot said.

“This is a system that informs air traffic controllers and pilots of elements of the flight that they need to know about. That could include the presence of a VIP presidential no-fly zone or even something as small as a tower light at a particular airport that’s out of service.”

These warnings are distributed to commercial airline pilots through a messaging system.

“Ultimately, that’s a key part of the airline and aviation safety,” Arnot explained Wednesday.

“That’s why the FAA took the action to ground all flights for a certain period of time today.”

Moments after Arnot spoke with Global News on Wednesday morning, the FAA tweeted that normal air traffic operations were “resuming gradually across the U.S.” following the overnight outage to the Notice to Air Missions system.

“The ground stop has been lifted,” the tweet read.

“We continue to look into the cause of the initial problem.”

Air Canada, which provides the bulk of the flights between Canada and the U.S., said the outage would impact its “transborder operations” on Wednesday.

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“But it is not possible to determine the extent at this point as we do not know the full impact and duration,” a spokesperson for Air Canada said in a statement sent to Global News.

“Customers should check their flights before going to the airport. We are putting in place a goodwill policy for affected customers to change their travel plans.”

Six WestJet flights also faced delays as a result of the outage, a spokesperson said, but no flights had been cancelled as of 12:00 p.m. ET.

Montreal’s Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport tweeted a warning to passengers with flights to the United States on Wednesday.

“Due to a computer system failure at the Federal Aviation Administration, your flight to the United States may be impacted,” it read.

“Please check your flight status with your airline before traveling to YUL.”

Other Canadian airports, including Toronto Pearson and the Vancouver International Airport, issued similar guidance on Twitter.

“Given an FAA system outage, we advise all US-bound passengers to check the status of their flight before heading to the airport,” the Toronto Pearson account wrote.

Click to play video: 'Flights across the US grounded'
Flights across the US grounded

The impact at Ottawa’s Macdonald–Cartier International Airport was “minimal,” according to a spokesperson. Two flights from Newark were affected.

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The FAA had ordered all U.S. flights to delay departures until 9:00 a.m. ET, though airlines said they were aware of the situation and had already begun grounding flights.

At 7:30 a.m. ET, there were more than 1,200 delayed flights within, into or out of the United States, according to the flight tracking website FlightAware. More than 100 had been cancelled.

Most delays were concentrated along the East Coast, but were beginning to spread west. Inbound international flights into Miami International Airport continued to land, but all departures have been delayed since 6:30 a.m., said airport spokesman Greg Chin.

European flights into the U.S. appeared to be largely unaffected on Wednesday morning.

Irish carrier Aer Lingus said services to the U.S. continue, and Dublin Airport’s website showed that its flights to Newark, Boston, Chicago and Los Angeles were running on schedule.

“Aer Lingus plan to operate all transatlantic flights as scheduled today,” the carrier said in a prepared statement. “We will continue to monitor but we do not anticipate any disruption to our services arising from the technical issue in the United States.”

The FAA said that it would provide frequent updates as it made progress.

— With files from The Associated Press


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