WASHINGTON, Jan 12 (Reuters) – The failure of a key computer system, which suspended U.S. flight departures on Wednesday, is not the first such issue to hamper Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) operations. ) and happened amid efforts to upgrade the technology.
The 90-minute outage, which was caused by a problem with an alert system that sends safety messages to pilots and others, occurred less than two weeks after another critical system air traffic control caused flight delays at major Florida airports. The latest glitch disrupted more than 11,000 flights on Wednesday.
The FAA has struggled to modernize some longstanding parts of air traffic control. A 2021 Department of Transportation Office of Inspector General (OIG) report repeatedly cited the challenges of the FAA’s Next Generation Air Transportation System (Next) multi-billion dollar infrastructure project.
The OIG said its work “showed that the FAA struggled to integrate key NextGen technologies and capabilities due to extended program delays that caused delays through a ripple effect.
with other programs.
In October, for example, the FAA said it was working to end a decades-old and ridiculed practice of air traffic controllers using paper flight tapes to track planes. But enacting the change at 49 major airports will take the FAA until the end of 2029.
The FAA has also attempted to modernize the Notice to Air Missions (NOTAM) system “to improve the delivery of safety-critical information to aviation stakeholders,” according to its website. The system provides pilots, flight crews and other US airspace users with relevant, timely and accurate safety advisories.
Last April, the FAA began investing $1 billion, of the $5 billion planned in the infrastructure package enacted in 2022, in the repair and replacement of key air traffic control system equipment, including including power systems, navigation and meteorological equipment and radars. and surveillance systems across the country.
“There is a lot of work to be done to reduce the backlog of sustainment work, upgrades and replacement of buildings and equipment needed to operate our nation’s airspace safely,” said then FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims.
In Florida, a system known as En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) used to control air traffic prompted the FAA on Jan. 2 to issue a ground stop order, slowing traffic at airports and grounding hundreds of flights.
The problem with the ERAM system at a major regional air traffic control center in Miami was the cause of dozens of flight delays at Miami International Airport and flights to other airports in the southern state. the United States.
In 2015, ERAM replaced the 40-year-old En Route host computer and backup system used in 20 FAA air traffic control centers nationwide.
House Transportation Committee Chairman Sam Graves, a Republican, called the FAA’s failure to properly maintain and operate the air traffic control system “inexcusable.”
The FAA said in 2020 that it is more difficult “for the FAA to hire technical talent as quickly and efficiently as it does in
The Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, has struggled with information technology. In 2019, a Government Accountability Office report on federal government IT planning found DOT to be one of the top three agencies without a modernization plan.
Reporting by David Shepardson; edited by Chris Sanders and Gerry Doyle
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