GOP Rep. Nancy Mace filed a bill that would mandate that Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg would be forced to travel on only commercial flights, until the airline “failures” under his watch have been investigated by Congress.
“In the past six months Sec. Buttigieg has flown private approximately 20 times,” a press release out of Mace’s office read.
“So, until the issues with Southwest and the FAA are investigated and resolved, he and his staff should be required to fly commercial just like every other American.”
On Wednesday, all US flights were grounded for the first time since September 11, 2001.
According to CNN, it was due to a routine reboot of the NOTAM (Notice to Air Missions) system that failed.
The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) discovered a corrupt file within in both NOTAM and it’s back up system on around 3pm on Tuesday.
To repair the issue, the FAA rebooted the system in what was supposed to be a 90 minute process from late Tuesday night to early Wednesday morning, but the system was not able to be restored to full functionality.
By 7:30am EST on Wednesday, the FAA issued a notice to ground all flights nationwide, which delayed over 8,000 flights and cancelled another 1,000, until NOTAM came back online later on Wednesday.
NOTAM alerts pilots of any potential hazards in their flight paths that could affect a plane’s route.
Former Congressman Adam Kinzinger, who served as a pilot in the Air National Guard, said that NOTAM being down was “no big deal at all.”
“It is absolutely no safety concern,” he tweeted. “None. It’s nice when it’s up but there are so many other ways to get NOTAMs.”
Canada’s NOTAM system also went down on Wednesday, but no flights were grounded.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre reported that there was no evidence of a cyber attack, despite both country’s system’s going offline on the same day.
She also said that Biden ordered a “full investigation into the causes” of the system failure.
The president told reporters that he had spoken to Buttigieg about the matter on Wednesday morning and told him to “report directly to me when they find out.”
“Aircraft can still land safely, just not take off right now,” Biden explained.
“They don’t know what the cause of it is, they expect in a couple of hours they’ll have a good sense of what caused it and will respond at that time.”
In an interview with MSNBC, Buttigieg said that he wanted “passengers to know is my number one priority is safety,” and while he acknowledged that air travelers were “frustrated,” the flights were grounded “out of an abundance of caution.”
He explained that “a system that has to operate 24/7” should have built in redundancies, so that even if a primary system goes down, NOTAM should be able to keep flights running.
“We need to understand whether this reflects a systemic issue, and what would be required so that there’s no single point of failure here,” Buttigieg remarked.
“This is an incredibly complex system, so glitches and complications happen all the time, but we can’t allow them to ever lead to this level of disruption and we won’t ever allow them to lead to a safety problem.”
Wednesday’s grounding comes on the heels of the Southwest Airlines fiasco over the holidays, that saw the entire airline industry disrupted, when nearly 16,000 flights were cancelled between Dec. 21 and Dec. 31.
Rep. Mace blasted Buttigieg for traveling by private jet on the tax payer’s dime when she introduced the “Commercial Cabins for Cabinet Members” bill on Wednesday.
“If according to Sec. Buttigieg, on MSNBC earlier today, the FAA systems are constantly being updated, and if they’re so good, then why is he flying private all the time?” Mace questioned.
“Until we see the Southwest Airlines debacle investigated; until the FAA software glitches are fixed; and until we complete the FAA reauthorization later this year, the Secretary of Transportation should be required to fly commercial just like everyone else.”
Fox News reported in mid-December that Buttigieg had taken “at least 18 flights using taxpayer-funded private jets since taking office.”
He was criticized by Caitlin Sutherland, the executive director of government watchdog group Americans for Public Trust (APT), which revealed the details of Buttigieg’s flight records.
“Everyday Americans face flight [cancellations] and long wait times because Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has completely mismanaged air travel,” Sutherland commented.
“Yet, he gets to avoid all that by taking taxpayer-funded private jets to destinations with readily available commercial airline options.”
“And for someone so holier-than-thou on reducing emissions, Buttigieg sure doesn’t seem to mind the pollution caused by his literal jet-setting,” she went on.
“This is hypocrisy at its finest, and these troubling expenses to taxpayers must come under immediate scrutiny.”