- Published: July 09, 2013
CHICAGO, IL – The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), the union that represents more than 11,000 Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) employees, today cited the system failures in Chicago yesterday as yet another example of serious safety and efficiency problems with the flawed system. The failure at O’Hare Airport resulted in over 100 delays with the impact felt in operations at Aurora, Minneapolis, Indianapolis, Cleveland, and Kansas Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs).
The failure has been attributed to the incorrect configuration of communications lines by a contractor working on the Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) system, which provides vital circuitry and communication functions for the entire agency. This is another incident in a long list of FTI problems that have occurred throughout the country over the past year. The FTI program is part of the FAA’s modernization plan, but according to PASS officials, the program is maintained by untrained contractors and has been the source of countless outages, delays and safety problems for American travelers.
There have been conflicting reports on the cause of the outage and the number of delays– the original Significant Event Report (SER) stated that the outage was caused by FTI personnel; however, PASS then received the official National Operational Control Center (NOCC) report that said the outage was caused by a misconfiguration and not personnel.
“Hundreds of travelers were adversely affected by this outage due to a contractor that lacks the institutional knowledge to address the intricacies of the air traffic control system,” said Monte Engler, local PASS representative. “FAA employees have been working tirelessly to correct the inefficiencies and flaws with FTI with no solution from the contractor or the FAA in sight.”
Since the FTI contract was awarded to Harris Corporation by the FAA in 2002, the transition to the system has been plagued with contractor errors, outages, missed deadlines and escalating costs. A Department of Transportation (DOT) Office of Inspector General (IG) report released in May 2006 emphasized that the FAA must gain better control of its contractors.
PASS has called attention on several occasions to problems associated with the work around the FTI transition, contending that the contractors tasked with maintaining FTI are neither properly supervised nor qualified to work on the system. “The FAA has a duty to demand that contractors meet the same standards expected of federal employees,” said Luke Drake, PASS regional vice president. “At this point, FAA technicians are the only thing holding the FTI program together. Something needs to be done soon because this issue is not going away and, as we’ve seen in Chicago, it is only getting worse.”
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.