FAA’s Telecommunications System Now Affecting International Air Travel

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Last Friday's telecommunications outage in Toronto, Canada, is the latest in a long series of outages according to the Professional Aviation Safety Specialists (PASS), the union that represents Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technicians.  Now that the international operations are being impacted, PASS is left wondering if the FAA will finally feel compelled to address serious deficiencies in Harris Corporation's Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI), which provides circuitry and communications by the FAA.

The outage occurred when a defective line card failed in New York City, preventing telecommunications lines from feeding vital flight information to air traffic. As a result, Inter-facility Data Service (IDAT) to Canada from all bordering Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCCs), including Boston, Minneapolis, Cleveland, Chicago, Seattle and Anchorage, failed. Insufficient monitoring of the FTI system by Harris prolonged troubleshooting of the issue resulting in over 200 delays.

The lack of a backup system played a large role in this and several recent FTI-related outages. Previously, to prevent full-scale failures, the FAA maintained backup equipment to automatically come online to support vital systems until primary communications could be restored. “The FAA bent over backwards in order to award this contract to Harris,” said PASS Vice President Mike Perrone. “In doing so, the FAA allowed Harris to merge backup and primary paths for these systems in order to make the FTI contract more profitable. With no services to fall back on, PASS is seeing more frequent outages throughout the country.”

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. In addition to technical problems, FTI has been plagued with a variety of issues, including insufficient training of contractors, poor planning and management, and substandard service. “Since its inception, FTI has been one of the worst programs ever implemented at the FAA,” said Perrone. “We have seen time and again serious issues with FTI, yet the FAA has refused to take any real action in dealing with this substandard service. Now, in addition to jeopardizing the safety of the American flying public, the FAA will be ignoring the risks to international travelers as well.”

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 www.passnational.org.


1000 characters left