FAA NEEDS TO TIGHTEN ITS LEASH ON CONTRACTORS

Orlando Radar Outage Reaffirms Problems With Harris FTI

 

ORLANDO, FL  - A radar outage earlier this month at Orlando International Airport (OIA) has the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) again questioning the Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) oversight of contractors responsible for transitioning from MCI to Harris Corporation’s Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI), which provides circuitry and communications for the FAA.

On Tuesday, November 9, OIA’s primary radar system failed. When systems specialists tried to transition to a backup long range radar in Melbourne, which relies upon FTI phone circuits to carry data to the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS), the phone lines were not working, resulting in all air traffic in and out of OIA being stopped for 22 minutes until the circuits became available again.

In the aftermath of the outage, Harris repeatedly claimed that the outage was “FAA induced,” maintaining that their circuits had no problems and was not the cause of the outage. Only after three weeks of prodding, did Harris finally admit that the problem was on their end. “While Harris was busy passing the buck, our systems specialists spent valuable time repeatedly checking systems at the Miami Air Route Traffic Control Center (ARTCC) and OIA that were clearly not the source of the failure,” said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president.

After being repeatedly prompted by local FAA technical support staff, on Tuesday, November 29, Harris finally corrected the problem, which required replacing a circuit card. According to systems specialists, who have been monitoring the circuits since the failure, this appears to be the fix. “It’s absolutely ridiculous that the FAA allowed this problem to go on for three weeks until Harris realized the error was theirs. The FAA should have made it a top priority to get to the root of the problem. Because of the delay, we suffered an outage that could have greatly jeopardized the safety of the American flying public,” said Spero.

From the outset, the national implementation of FTI has been plagued with problems, including escalating costs, insufficient training of contractors, poor planning and management, and substandard service. “The situation in Orlando is just another example of how the FAA is allowing a substandard contractor to run amok,” said Spero. ”Where is the oversight on the part of the FAA?”

PASS is eagerly anticipating the results of a Department of Transportation Inspector General (IG) audit of FTI, which it believes will show blunders not only on the part of Harris but also the ineffective oversight and lack of attention the FAA is giving to this contractor.


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PASS represents more than 11,000 employees of the Federal Aviation Administration and the Department of Defense who install, maintain, support and certify air traffic control and national defense equipment, inspect and oversee the commercial and general aviation industries, develop flight procedures and perform quality analyses of the aviation systems. For more information, visit the PASS website at www.passnational.org.

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