Union Warns Of More ATC Communications Breakdowns

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The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union says a telephone line glitch that shut down the data link between O’Hare’s radar and the control center on Thursday is a symptom of a flawed contract with a private contractor that isn’t qualified to do the work. In a news release, PASS said the problem was traced to the incorrect configuration of telephone lines by Harris Corp. as part of its contract to install the FAA’s Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) system. "At this point, FAA technicians are the only thing holding the FTI program together. Something needs to be done soon because this issue is not going away and, as we've seen in Chicago, it is only getting worse," PASS spokesman Luke Drake said in the release. When the main radar signal was lost, controllers switched to a backup, off-site radar. It took 90 minutes to fix the phone problem and about 100 flights were delayed. FAA spokeswoman Elizabeth Cory stressed that the radar itself continued to work, but the data couldn’t be transmitted. A backup radar for O’Hare has been approved but is now going through the budget process.