Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg and even his patron President Joe Biden seemed to be utterly incapable of meaningfully addressing the sudden FAA ground stop of every flight in the United States on Wednesday, the first since 9/11.
According to the Federal Aviation Administration, an error in the NOTAM or Notice to Air Missions system required the full shutdown of flights. The nationwide failure came only a few weeks after Buttigieg was soundly criticized for Southwest Airlines canceling thousands of flights over Christmas weekend.
Republican Congressman Troy Nehls of Texas tweeted cheekily asking, “Is Pete Buttigieg on vacation again?”
All flights in America are grounded because of an FAA computer error.
Is Pete Buttigieg on vacation again?
— Congressman Troy Nehls (@RepTroyNehls) January 11, 2023
Fox News reported that White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Biden was briefed on the ground stop and claimed there was no evidence that a cyber attack had crippled the FAA systems. However, in a serious case of mixed messaging Buttigieg told MSNBC in an interview, “We’re not prepared to rule that out. There hasn’t been any indication of that.”
“There is no direct indication of any kind of external or nefarious activity, but we are not yet prepared to rule that out,” Buttigieg said
The FAA lifted the ground stop on the flights later Wednesday morning, but the damage was already done. Hundreds of trips had to be canceled and over 6,500 domestic and international were delayed, according to FlightAware.
Many in Congress are now calling on Buttigieg to take responsibility for the issue and provide answers.
Republican House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee member Rep. Garret Graves (R-LA) wrote, “Today’s failure of the FAA has wreaked havoc across the country. Every person is stranded east to west – business travelers, tourists, and those visiting friends and family. Air travel logistics are hard enough – we do not need our government making it worse.”
“The past year has made clear that significant improvements across the aviation system are needed,” he continued. “We will aggressively pursue accountability and craft reforms that focus on enhancing the passenger experience.”