FAA Updating Flight Planning Computer

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The National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN), which failed Tuesday at a Georgia facility causing at least 646 flight delays, is scheduled for an update to be installed by year-end. Hank Krakowski, COO of the FAA's Air Traffic Organization, said Wednesday an improved version with vastly higher memory will offer noticeable improvements before November, according to The Wall Street Journal. "Our exposure to this will be much reduced," said Krakowski. Tuesday's failure on the distribution side that sends flight plans out to other FAA facilities where controllers use them to clear aircraft for departure was the first of its kind, according to Krakowski. The Journal points out that a separate ($2.4 billion) system meant to provide redundancy for communication has failed both before and after upgrades (specifically at Memphis last September, where 550 flights were delayed when voice data and radar were lost for three hours). The failures are not sitting well with the air traffic controllers union.

"We continue to lose confidence in the reliability of the equipment we are tasked to use to keep the system safe and efficient," Doug Church, spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, told MSNBC. When computers failed Tuesday, controllers were tasked with making radio calls to pilots to acquire the flight-plan information, type it into computers and send the information along. Church said those kinds of data-entry and processing demands distract from controllers' focus on directing air traffic.