Impacts from Communications Outage Should Have Been Minor, Says Union

WASHINGTON, D.C. - The Professional Aviation Safety Specialists, AFL-CIO (PASS), the union that represents Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) technicians, is extremely concerned about

the resolution process in reaction to today's outage of the Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI). The outage occurred due to a corrupt router card for the FTI server at the Salt Lake Center in Utah and had a rippling effect that caused significant delays across the country.

FTI, which provides all telecommunications used to transfer critical data used by the FAA for air traffic control, is owned by Harris Corporation. As such, the system is not maintained by the FAA. When the outage occurred at the Salt Lake Center, Harris Corporation attempted to troubleshoot the problem remotely but eventually a Harris FTI technician had to be dispatched to the scene in order to fix the problem. In the end, it took four hours for Harris to rectify the situation.

"If the FAA owned and maintained this system, the problem could have been corrected within minutes," said Tom Brantley, PASS national president. "This could have reduced delays tremendously and allowed a much quicker resolution to the problem. Meanwhile, because it took so long for Harris to address the problem, delays continue to plague the system."

PASS has reported several times on issues with FTI and concerns with entrusting responsibility for such a massive system entirely to an outside vendor. However, the FAA appears determined to outsource even more work to private corporations. For instance, the Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) is a digital alternative to radar that allows aircraft to transmit their exact position, direction of flight and speed to ground stations and other aircraft. This system, which is expected to be the basis of the Next Generation Air Transportation System (NextGen), will not be owned or maintained by the FAA and the FAA will entrust responsibility for its safe operation entirely to private contractors.

"The similarities between FTI and ADS-B are startling," said Brantley. "The FAA cannot continue to allow private contractors free reign without involving experienced FAA employees in the process. As we've seen with today's incident, involving FAA employees can result in far less delays and thus less inconvenience to the flying public. If the FAA continues down this path, there will continue to be risks not only to timely air travel but to the safety of the system as well."

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


For 36 years, PASS has represented 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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