FAA Infrastructure: Flight-Plan System RotBy Chris Preimesberger | Posted 2008-10-14 Email Print
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Transitioning off of legacy systems is never easy, but it’s especially challenging if you are an agency of the U.S. government such as the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration). Real progress on a next-generation system is being made, but you wouldn’t necessarily know it if you read some news headlines about FAA system failures this year. Beyond being a nuisance to airlines and travelers, experts and former employees of the FAA are calling flight-plan system failures a warning sign for peril.
FAA Infrastructure: Flight-Plan System Rot
Stratfor, along with many other industry watchers, is very concerned about the flight-plan system and evidence that the system is wearing out.
"Regardless of what caused the Aug. 26 NADIN crash, [there] is a monumental challenge the event underscores. Here an archaic system that had survived nearly seven years of 9/11-inspired overhauls went down, dumping its entire workload on one other switch. The NADIN system had already been partially upgraded with systems from Lockheed Martin and is slated to be replaced altogether with the FAA's much-hyped NextGen Air Traffic Control system,” said Stratfor.
“But the lack of redundancy and dynamism demonstrated again by the latest NADIN crash makes a cyberattack against critical U.S. infrastructure all the more feasible. And the cost of comprehensively upgrading these systems would be an enormous financial investment, far more than we have seen so far in the years following 9/11."
A Web site blogged by a number of former FAA staff members, FAAFollies.com, details many of the foibles the agency has suffered in recent years, including these last two system crashes.
In March 2005, a new contract was awarded for a "NextGen" NADIN replacement. So the FAA has been well aware for at least four years that the old system has served its purpose and is ready to be replaced. In fact, the agency had been given warning as far back as 2000 (and perhaps even sooner than that) that the system was beginning to fail.