Massive Power and Communications Failure May Have Been Prevented

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The massive power and communications failure on Tuesday at the Los Angeles Air Traffic Control Center in Palmdale not only could have been prevented, but it was actually predicted by systems specialists working at the center. Those same specialists took quick action to minimize the safety threat to planes in the air and get power back up in the tower.

“The FAA is recklessly jeopardizing the safety of air passengers in its drive to cut costs and meet its bottom line,” said Ray Baggett, regional vice president of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS).

When one of four power conditioning units broke a couple of years ago, the FAA made the decision to leave the unit inoperable in order to save money. At the time, systems specialists expressed grave concern that the decreased redundancy could lead to a catastrophic power outage like the one that occurred on Tuesday. The FAA disregarded these concerns and the tower operated normally on three power conditioning modules until one of them failed on Tuesday, setting off the reaction that resulted in the complete and dangerous power failure of vital communications systems.

Luckily, there was an on-duty specialist to respond and restore facility power in a matter of minutes by switching back to commercial power, which had resumed by that time. However, it takes a considerably longer period of time to restore full air traffic control operations after a power outage of this type, regardless of duration.

“The FAA's refusal to consider the input of experienced field professionals, coupled with its reckless drive to reduce operating costs, has led to unnecessary costs to the airlines, unwarranted inconvenience to hundreds, if not thousands, of air travelers, and an unconscionable increase in risk to the safety of all air travelers in the Los Angeles area,” said Baggett. “In other words, the FAA’s effort to save a few dollars put safety at risk and that is something that should never be compromised.”


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

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