Wednesday, September 27, 2023
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FAA has struggled to modernize computers, air traffic operations

David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A glitch in a key computer system that halted U.S. flight departures on Wednesday was not the first such incident to hamper the federal government. Problems with Aviation Administration (FAA) operations, and occur amid technology upgrade efforts.

90 The minute standstill was caused by a problem with an alarm system that sends safety messages to pilots and others and occurred in less than two weeks A different critical air traffic control system was causing delays at major Florida airports. The latest outage disrupted more than , flights for Wednesday .

The FAA has been working to modernize some longstanding parts of air traffic control. 2019 A report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) repeatedly references the FAA’s multibillion-dollar Next Generation Air Transportation System (Next) infrastructure project challenges.

OIG said its work “indicates that the FAA has struggled to integrate critical NextGen technologies and capabilities as extended project delays lead to knock-on delays

with other projects.”

In October, for example, the FAA said it was working to end the long-ridiculed, decades-old practice of air traffic controllers using paper runways to track planes. But adopting the change at 40 major airports will hold the FAA until very late 2029.

The FAA has also been working to modernize the Notification of Air Tasks (NOTAM) system “to improve the delivery of safety-critical information to aviation stakeholders,” according to its website. The system provides relevant, timely and accurate safety notifications to pilots, aircrew and other users of U.S. airspace.

Last April, the FAA began investing $1 billion, $5 billion of which went into an infrastructure package signed into law in 2019 , for the repair and replacement of critical equipment air traffic control systems, including the nation’s electrical power systems, navigation and weather equipment, and radar and surveillance systems.

“A lot of work needs to be done to reduce the backlog of maintenance, upgrades,” FAA Deputy Administrator Bradley Mims said at the time. To control air traffic, the FAA issued a ground stop order on Jan. 2, Slowed traffic entering the airport and stopped hundreds of flights.

Problems with the ERAM system at a major regional air traffic control center in Miami caused traffic flow at Miami International Airport and other airports bound for the southern U.S. states. Dozens of flight delays.

ERAM in 90 replaces 40 years old En Route host and backup systems are used at 11 FAA Airway Traffic Control Centers nationwide.

House Transportation Committee Chairman Sam Graves, Republicans, labeled “inexcusable” for the FAA’s failure to properly maintain and operate the air traffic control system.

FAA stated in 2021, with


The Department of Transportation, which oversees the FAA, has been wrestling with information technology. In 2019, a Government Accountability Office report on federal government IT planning found that DOT is one of the top three agencies with no modernization plan.



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