FAA Needs To Speed Up Tech Upgrades, Critics Say
It's not just aviators anymore who are frustrated with the snail's pace of technology upgrades in the National Airspace System. The FAA is taking heat from Congress over its lagging ADS-B project that would empower pilots and controllers with improved traffic situational awareness. By 2010, the agency plans to spend $300 million and install 400 ground stations to support the system, and the gear should be in every cockpit by 2016. But on Monday, two leaders on the House Transportation Committee sent a letter to FAA Administrator Marion Blakey expressing concern that the deadline couldn't be met: "It is not clear that [the FAA] budget supports this goal," wrote Reps. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) and Jerry Costello (D-Ill.), The Associated Press reported Tuesday. The Air Line Pilots Association has expressed support for the new system, but also says the budget is not up to the task. Other projects also have taken heat. The inspector general for the Transportation Department reported recently that the FAA's project to upgrade its telecommunications network is falling behind schedule, and the delay means expected cost benefits are eroding. On the upside, a switchover from proprietary software to open-source Linux in some systems has saved the agency $15 million. The upgrade was done in about six months, one-third the time originally estimated for the project, according to Linuxinsider.com.