Contractor Errors Continue to Threaten Aviation Safety

DALLAS, TX - The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO, the union representing FAA systems specialists, is calling attention to yet another example where contractor carelessness has placed the safety of the American flying public at risk. On Tuesday, contractors working for Harris Corporation, the company now providing Federal Communications Infrastructure (FTI) circuitry and communications for the FAA, were testing circuits at the Dallas/Fort Worth Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility and inadvertently shut down a system separate from the one on which they were working. The contractor error resulted in three out of four radars switching to backup lines.

“It was fortunate that the backup lines were in place to act as a safety net when Harris’ primary lines failed,” said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president. “The major issue here is what could have happened. Losing three out of four radars at one of the busiest airports in the country could have risked the lives of countless air travelers simply because a contractor was not paying attention to the task at hand.”

Since Harris Corporation was awarded the FTI contract in 2002, the transition to the system has been plagued with contractor errors, outages, missed deadlines and escalating costs. A recent Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (IG) report released in May emphasized that the FAA must get control of its contractors.

“The product and quality of work being performed by contractors and subcontractors has continued to disappoint around the country,” said Spero. “The FAA has a duty to demand that private contractors live up to some minimum level of service and competence. The reliability and efficiency of these systems is vital to the safety of air travel and cannot be compromised because of contractor carelessness.”


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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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