The airport is shutdown in the midst of a busy time, masses of people are stranded, pilots wait in the cockpit awaiting ground information, there’s confusion and panic among the crew. This could easily be a scene from Die Hard 2 where the villains take over an airport and seize control of all electrical equipment. But, hate to break it to you, this actually happened. Is it possible for one person to disrupt the entire nation’s aviation system? Apparently, yes. And a single corrupted file was all it took.


On Jan. 11, 2023, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the nation’s civil aviation regulator, grounded all flights for the first time in over two decades. According to many industry officials, this grounding was reminiscent of 9/11! FlightAware reported over 10,000 flight delays and over 1,300 cancellations. With the exploding demand for air travel, these meltdowns are not new problems, but simply the surfacing of longstanding IT problems.

 Timeline of the turbulence:

  • On Tuesday, Jan. 10, 2023, the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system begins to malfunction. A NOTAM informs pilots about conditions that could affect their flights’ safety. Air Traffic Control (ATC) maintains safe distances between planes, while NOTAM distributes safety messages about abnormal conditions.

  • Pete Buttigieg, United States Secretary of Transportation, reports that the safety messages sent to pilots are irregular and unreliable.

  • An FAA investigation narrows down the cause of the malfunction to a corrupt database file. They acknowledge that there’s no cyberattack or foul play involved, just a mistaken file transfer by a FAA personnel who failed to follow procedures.

  • When the FAA switches to a backup system, the backup also has the corrupt file. The situation worsens overnight, so FAA officials decide to reboot the main NOTAM system, a process that can take up to 90 minutes.

  • Because airlines don’t have time to spare, they decide to do it early morning on Jan. 11, 2023 to minimize disruptions. But a massive flight delay follows, and national flight departures are suspended in an unprecedented manner due to the ensuing congestion.

  • A ground stop is ordered nationwide by the FAA, causing havoc on the nation’s aviation operations.

  • Overall, a corrupted database file caused a system outage, which snowballed into a national aviation disruption.

 As anyone who has ever set foot in an airport knows, electronic devices run the show

This was not an overnight failure. It was simply the straw that broke the camel’s back. As with this mishap, a seemingly small fault proved to be the final straw for a large breakdown.

Airline infrastructure goes far beyond bricks and mortar. The airline runs on servers, computers, phones, network devices, thin clients, and software. From check-in to kiosks, security scans to baggage claims, passport control to customs control, and in-flight entertainment to payment systems, electronic devices are everywhere.

Big doors swing on small hinges. Identify your hinges and control them well.

In an increasingly interconnected and digitized industry, when something goes wrong, it can go wrong horribly. Taking down the nation’s aviation system by damaging a file on an endpoint indicates a weakness in the network.

The cause of this outage can be safely attributed to poor device control and instabilities in the computing environment. It could have been prevented by proper maintenance or monitoring of the endpoints running these systems.

This industry never sleeps, which means there’s no room for mistakes.

Airports require continuous monitoring of hardware and software systems, both during work hours and after hours. Endpoint insights are needed: the applications installed on each endpoint, their latest versions, and applications that aren’t updated. Keeping track of different vendors and product licensing is difficult. Your aviation organization will save valuable time, effort, and money by using a unified endpoint management (UEM) solution to maintain a unified IT infrastructure. Here are some ways UEM can help boost your non-aeronautical activities:

  • Configure, freeze, and safeguard your kiosk machines from cyberattacks.

  • Provide in-flight services that require real-time payment processing and validation to boost sales opportunities.

  • Improve communications between flight crews and ground entities with controlled, cellular-connected devices.

  • Customize and deploy work-specific apps to the flight crew’s electronic flight bags (EFBs) in order to access flight charts.

  •  Monitor the health of all the endpoints in your network, both physical and digital assets, in real time.
  • Swap out legacy devices for those with smart capabilities and modern management.

  • Automate end-to-end patch management with OS and 250+ third-party patches.

  • Instant application deployment using 8,000+ pre-defined templates.

  • Quickly identify anomalies and remediate events faster when they do happen.

  • Remotely control and troubleshoot devices via one-click desktop sharing while maintaining user privacy.

Endpoint Central is ManageEngine’s robust UEM solution that provides integrated control over servers, laptops, desktops, smartphones, and tablets. Under one hood, it provides both control and security.

Try the fully-functional, free trial of Endpoint Central today!