Delta CEO Urges Funding Boost For FAA


The head of Delta Air Lines says the unprecedented nationwide ground stop on Wednesday “is not the FAA’s fault” and called on legislators to boost the agency’s budget. “I lay this on the fact that we are not giving them the resources, the funding, the staffing, the tools, the technology they need,” he told CNBC. “Hopefully this will be the call to our political leaders in Washington that we need to do better.” That topic hasn’t come up in the flurry of political indignation that has been the hallmark of Washington’s reaction so far, but it’s likely Bastian will get to plead his case.

It’s virtually certain that formal hearings will be held to dissect the 15 or so hours that led up to the 90-minute shutdown. Meanwhile, the agency seems to have identified the source of the problems that paralyzed the 30-year-old computer system. “The FAA has been conducting a preliminary analysis into the NOTAM system interruption,” the FAA said late Thursday. “The agency determined that a data file was damaged by personnel who failed to follow procedures.”

The issue was first flagged midafternoon on Jan. 10, and at some point in the early morning of Jan. 11 the decision was made to reboot the system during the overnight lull in traffic. That apparently didn’t go well, and the ground stop was ordered at 7:30 a.m. EST and lifted about 9 a.m. Bastian echoed the sentiment of just about everyone who commented on the debacle in its aftermath. “It was a difficult day on Wednesday for our customers as well or our own employees. And candidly, it’s unacceptable” he said. 

Meanwhile OpsGroup, an international organization dedicated to reforming the largely dysfunctional NOTAM system, says technology is only part of the problem. Mike Zee, an air traffic controller in New Zealand, told NPR his group is dedicated to creating a new system that gives pilots the information they really need instead of burying them in irrelevant notifications along their flight path. Even when it’s working, the current NOTAM system is failing, he said. “It’s a mess. It’s a giant mess,” he said. [It’s] “a broken, archaic briefing system from the 1920s, and as a result, [pilots] regularly miss critical flight information.”

Russ Niles
Russ Niles is Editor-in-Chief of AVweb. He has been a pilot for 30 years and joined AVweb 22 years ago. He and his wife Marni live in southern British Columbia where they also operate a small winery.

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  1. What in the world is the Delta CEO talkin’ about? The FAA has fixed the biggest problem with the NOTAM system:

    NOTAM has been “gender-neutralized”. What else do they need money for?

    Do an AvWeb “NOTAM” search. There’s countless articles dating back 30 years to the beginning of AvWeb reporting. Many articles about the inoperability of the NOTAM system. Maybe it’s not a money problem but, a bureaucracy problem? The FAA need to post NOTAMs in Social Media like Twitter and Facebook and the whole Aviation world will instantly be informed for free. If one Social Media site goes down there’s still another dozen Social Media sites working. (even TicTok 😊)

    • I said that same thing in Paul’s editorial. CUT their damn pay until they start doing the job they’re supposed to be doing. That Amendments to lawsmaking has to DIRECT them to do their job is crimminal.

  2. Are Delta suggesting they throw money at the problem?

    How about the biggest users of Notice to Airmen paying the cost of updating the system on a pro rata basis?

  3. So increase the charges to airlines, as they are some of the largest users of FAA services. Delta should be happy to pay for said budget increase. Make sure that shareholders know the drop in profits lie at his feet!

    • Completely agree with You, Mr. John F. So, taking in account the perspective of Bastian, the airliners bosses should radically cuted their large payments and give them to FAA. All problems, from that moment on, solved.
      We must have a great God to save us from that kind of people that said such of a bunch anomalies.

  4. So, we have one guy who has climbed the corporate ladder to the stratosphere 😎of the business world suggesting the issue is the budget. Smart move, Mister Bastian. That’s what the people who regulate your company, the flying public, and your stockholders all want you to do. Score! We can see why you are so successful.

    Of course, more budget for the FAA likely will be a REALLY inefficient way to marginally affect the problem. In fact, rewarding the FAA for its failures in the long run will only damage the airlines and the country, but you get a decent boost for you and your airline at a cost to the taxpayers, and the damage will be done after you have retired. Textbook!

    Meanwhile there’s a guy actually trying to fix the problem on his own time and dime along with other people who actually care. Likely, he’s taking a risk just opening his mouth. Eventually, some of their solutions will get implemented, and a bunch of Bastian types will make statements, and take credit.

    Thank you, Mr. Zee. You and yours give us all hope.

  5. Thinking about it some more, how’s about the idea of ‘privatizing’ the NOTAM system. OH! I forgot. Talk of privatization of control towers didn’t get too far because the FAA types riding the Govment Gravy Train (GGT) don’t want to lose their retirements and easy jobs. Why I’d even bet the guy who shut down the system last week won’t even get a bad performance report. I’d also bet that ForeFlight would be more than happy to take the task over, streamline and simplify it and make a little money, as well. Where is Sen. Inhofe when ya need him (sic).

    • Privatization is the key to ‘gowerment’ problems. Boeing already owns Firelight – a fresh startup would be in order. First step – add a second server to backup the stupid file so one clown can’t corrupt it. That should cost maybe 10K, 1 million if the FAA tried to do it, 1 Billion if O-bama tried to do it. Definitely for privatization.

      • Contract towers are as close to privatization as it gets. First hand I’ve been on both sides, you get less oversight, less training, fewer resources, lowered safety margins. It’s not the answer.

  6. Tucker Carlson was reporting this evening (1/16) that the Nav Canada system is not tied to the U.S. system and IT went down the same day. Don’t know if that’s true or not. Further, he was reporting that the Philippine NOTAM system likewise went down earlier. I tried to find that but had no success. He was opining that maybe the problems really were caused by nefarious actors and not a software glitch.