FAA Pays Private Contractor for Service it Cannot Provide

WASHINGTON, DC The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) today reported a recent incident in which a private contractor working at the Automated Flight Service Station (AFSS) in De Ridder, Louisiana was forced to ask FAA employees for help fixing one of its own systems. As a result of the private contractor's lack of knowledge, flight plan communications between De Ridder and Houston were disrupted for approximately an hour.

On Friday, March 3, 2006, a Lockheed Martin contractor attempted to resolve problems related to the De Ridder AFSS system that communicates flight information between De Ridder and Houston. Soon after, a Lockheed Martin supervisor repeatedly tried to resolve the problems but was not able to do so. As the vital communication link between De Ridder and Houston was disrupted, the Lockheed Martin specialist responsible for the software was nowhere to be found.

The contractor contacted the FAA, which in turn dispatched an FAA systems specialist, who immediately responded to the situation. The systems specialist walked the contractors through a process that reset the failed communications processors and restored all De Ridder’s AFSS lines. 

“The private contractors involved in this incident displayed no sense of urgency when it came to fixing the problem in De Ridder,” said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president. “FAA employees stepped up to the plate, recognized the seriousness of the problem and fixed it while the private contractors simply watched.”

The inability of private contractors to perform their duties, let alone at the professional standards required, has been a growing concern among FAA employees at air traffic control and flight service stations around the country.

“Essentially, the FAA is paying a private contractor for a service that it can’t provide,” said Spero. “In case after case, FAA professionals have to make up for the incompetence of private contractors.”

Lockheed Martin took over AFSS functions around the country in October 2005.


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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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