FAA Failure Update, Damar Hamlin Returns Home: 5 Things podcast

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In today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: More than 10,000 flights delayed, canceled after FAA outage

USA TODAY Consumer Travel Reporter Zach Wichter has the latest on an FAA outage that caused flights to be halted across the country. In addition, a second batch of classified documents has been found by aides to President Joe Biden, lawsuits are piling up over layoffs and vaccine mandates, USA TODAY Education Reporter Kayla Jimenez talks about student lunch debt, and Damar Hamlin heads home from the hospital.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow the transcript below. This transcript has been auto-generated and then edited in its current form for clarity. There may be some differences between the audio and text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and these are 5 things you need to know Thursday, January 12, 2023. Today broke the news about canceled flights after a massive FAA outage, plus a second batch of classified documents related to President Joe Biden, and Damar Hamlin goes home.

A computer glitch at the Federal Aviation Administration yesterday delayed air travel across much of the country, and for the first time since Sept. 11, 2001, departing flights across the country were halted. So what happened? Producer PJ Elliott spoke to USA TODAY Consumer Travel Reporter Zach Wichter to find out.

PJ Elliott:

Zach, first of all thank you for participating in the podcast.

Zach Wetter:

Yes, happy to be here.

PJ Elliott:

So do we know the origin of the system’s failure at the FAA on Wednesday?

Zach Wetter:

No, we don’t. That said, many of the experts I’ve spoken to over the course of my reporting have pointed out that the FAA and many air traffic system institutions in the US use pretty old technology as part of their backend. And so a lot of people suspect it’s just some kind of IT glitch, but we don’t know for sure. The FAA has said they are looking into it and we are all waiting to see what they eventually say.

PJ Elliott:

Yes, how old is the system?

Zach Wetter:

I’m not 100% sure. I think it went through several iterations. And so no one I spoke to can say exactly what kind of software the NOTAM system relies on. Much of what the FAA uses and much of what the airlines use are systems built on top of other legacy systems. I mean, I always think when I go to the airport, how many other places in the world do you still see dot matrix printers? And there is one on virtually every stage in an airport. So that gives you an idea of ​​what kind of technology a lot of these people are still dealing with.

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PJ Elliott:

Zach, I want to ask you about the history of these issues. Is this something the FAA has dealt with before Wednesday?

Zach Wetter:

So I think what happened on Wednesday is quite unusual, especially in how widespread it is. But that said, there are always technical issues. We see that with the airlines, we see that with the FAA. The big question then becomes how quickly it can be resolved and how widespread it is. What we saw on Wednesday was unusual in that it affected the entire air system of the country. But there are always technical issues, so that part of it isn’t that uncommon.

PJ Elliott:

Are the issues that occurred at the FAA on Wednesday related in any way to what happened with Southwest a few weeks ago?

Zach Wetter:

It’s a good question, and I’d say the first answer is no. Separate systems, separate organizations. I think both what we saw on Wednesday and what we saw with Southwest could be a symptom of the same problem of these legacy systems that support 21st century travel. I think we see some cracks in that, for lack of a better word.

PJ Elliott:

Zach, thank you so much for your time and for the information. Have fun.

Zach Wetter:

Yes No problem. Thanks again for enlisting me.

Taylor Wilson:

A second batch of classified documents has been found by aides to President Joe Biden at a location other than his former office where documents were first discovered in November. The White House confirmed that discovery in November earlier this week.

President Joe Biden:

People know that I take classified documents, classified information seriously.

Taylor Wilson:

Biden also said he was cooperating with the Justice Department’s review of the documents. It was not immediately clear how many documents were found at the second site and what their classification level was. Both document discoveries have drawn comparisons to former President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago document seizures, but the episodes are different. Trump repeatedly resisted efforts by the National Archives, while Biden insisted that the documents be immediately returned to the archive. Meanwhile, newly authorized House Republicans are planning a series of investigations into President Joe Biden, including his family’s business connections.

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