LAX Problems The Tip Of The Iceberg?

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The FAA needs to spend up to $100 million, and fast, to make sure the lights, computers and consoles stay on at its most important air traffic control facilities, according to a report by the Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General (OIG). The OIG was responding to a request from Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., to investigate a power failure at Los Angeles Center, as well as repeated failures of the ILS and the intentional disabling of the Airport Movement Area Safety System (AMASS) at LAX. In his letter to Boxer, DOT Inspector General Calvin L. Scovell III says the power problems at Los Angeles Center could be repeated at other major ATC facilities and the FAA needs to fix the problems sooner rather than later. Last July 18, a traffic accident knocked out power to the center and surrounding area. The center’s backup system activated and ran for about an hour before a component failed and the screens went blank. A technician tried to bring the system back online manually, but that caused another failure. More than 300 flights were affected. Scovell said in his letter the subsequent investigation revealed that similar weak points exist in the backup systems of other major ATC facilities and failures could occur at them as well. The OIG recommended the backup systems be redesigned to reduce the number of single-point failure sites and that staffing be reviewed to make sure technicians have the time and resources needed to do the work. “Our work shows that a national program is required to solve this problem and prevent its reoccurrence at other locations,” Scovell wrote. However, he also noted that there’s no money in the FAA budget for the project and the agency estimates the cost to be from $75 million to $100 million.