Representatives of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) tempered expectations for quick updates to its Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system on Wednesday during a hearing before the Senate Commerce Committee.
Republican Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming pressed acting FAA Administrator Billy Nolen at the hearing for details on when the administration's NOTAM system would be fully updated.
"So, recently you announced that upgrades to the NOTAM system would not be completed for almost a decade, and I assume it's because of the complexity of making the updates," said Lummis. "But is there a way to expedite that time frame?"
Airline flights across the country were grounded and delayed last month due to an outage in the NOTAM system, which relays key information to flight crews.
"That's one of … the directions I've given my team is come back to me with what it would take resources-wise for us to accelerate," Nolen said. "And we'd love to see if that's possible. Right now, substantially, the bulk of the work will be done by [fiscal year 2025.] I'd like to see if we could bring that forward, and then there are some other pieces that work into that."
The U.S. government's fiscal year 2025 begins Oct. 1, 2024.
A January report from the Congressional Research Service (CRS) found that officials had known that the NOTAM system was in need of fixing. The CRS report also noted that the FAA itself asked for funding in the 2023 budget to update the NOTAM system.
Lummis followed up by asking about the future of contract work at the FAA after it was discovered that the NOTAM failure was traceable to contractors accidentally deleting key data.
"Since the issue with NOTAM was caused by contractors accidentally deleting critical code, does the plan to restrict access to the NOTAM system moving forward to FAA employees?" Lummis asked.
"No, ma'am, we do not. So, we have a NOTAM system that is overseen by the FAA and maintained by contractors. These folks are indeed the experts there," Nolen said. "What I have ensured that we have is the level of oversight for our FAA team and that the requisite level of that oversees that."
FOX Business' Ronn Blitzer contributed to this report.