Communications Failure at Augusta Airport Highlights Deficiencies of FAA Contractor

AUGUSTA, GA – The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), the union that represents more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, is calling into question the reliability of the FAA’s Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) circuitry and communications system following a serious outage last week. Since its inception, the FTI program, which is provided by Harris Corporation, has been plagued with numerous problems, including insufficient training of contractors, poor planning and management, and substandard service.

Shortly after midnight on March 30, circuits that feed radar data to the Augusta air traffic control tower failed. A systems specialist arrived the following morning and after attempting to troubleshoot the problem, determined that the outage was FTI related. The specialist immediately contacted Harris to respond to the situation, but had to make several phone calls over a span of eight hours before Harris dispatched a contractor from Atlanta to correct the problem. “It is absolutely ridiculous that the response to this outage took so long to resolve,” said Dave Spero, PASS regional vice president.

The outage occurred just one week before the Masters Cup Tournament and, with over 5,000 flights expected in and out of the area throughout the next week, systems specialists are very concerned about inexplicably long response times should another FTI outage occur. “Now is not the time to play games with contractors who are unprepared for this type of situation,” said Spero. “If an outage occurs, there must be someone on site to immediately troubleshoot the problem to ensure the safety of flying public. We’re being told that the FAA will be forced to shell out $1,000 a day just to keep a Harris contractor nearby in case its shoddy service interrupts air traffic yet again this week – even though the FAA supposedly already paid for the service.”

The FAA awarded Harris Corporation a five-year $1.7 billion contract in 2002 to upgrade circuitry and communications for the FAA. The FTI program was introduced by the FAA as a cost-saving measure; however, according to the Inspector General, acquisition costs have increased while cost savings have decreased by over $400 million – more than half of the FAA’s original estimated savings.

For more information or questions, please contact Kori Blalock Keller at (202) 293-7277 x110.


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

PASS - (202) 293-7277


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