Buttigieg Calls For FAA Computer Upgrades


Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has joined the chorus of industry leaders calling on Congress for more money for the FAA. Buttigieg told Reuters legislators need to “pick up the pace” in approving budget money to upgrade the agency’s decades-old computer systems. A failure of the system that serves up NOTAMs prompted a nationwide ground stop a few weeks ago and has put the apparent frailty of the computer infrastructure in the spotlight. The CEOs of the country’s largest airlines, whose computer glitches periodically cause troubles themselves, have urged budget increases to bolster the FAA’s systems.

The House has passed a bill to get the process started but Buttigieg said he’s asking Congress for a comprehensive upgrade rather than a patchwork of fixes. “We’re working to make sure we can accelerate the NOTAM modernization but what we really need to do is pick up the pace on FAA’s wholesale system modernization—all the way down to the backbone of how the data moves,” Buttigieg said. 

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  1. If the FAA’s computer system is, indeed, “decades old” – then it needs to be upgraded. The amount of change that has occurred in the data processing / storing / presenting world in the last two decades is massive, and no system so important as the FAA’s should be allowed to get that old.

    For those of you who think that “throwing money at it” isn’t the right approach… what, exactly, do you think the right approach is? Do you think that any significant improvement in anything so large can happen WITHOUT spending some money?

    Kirk W.- right on!

    • Brian, The FAA Reauthorization Act of 2018 already gave the FAA funding and authorization to improve the NOTAM system They already met most of their modernization milestones last year. They list the progress on their website here: faa.gov/about/initiatives/notam.

      Basically asking for “more money” AFTER their modernization grant 4 years ago is textbook proof that they are mismanaged and thus “more money” is not a solution; it’s business as usual.

      • Thank you providing that link. After reading through it, I can see how the FAA is improving access to the NOTAM system for outside users, and reducing redundant and obsolete NOTAMs, among other changes.

        However, I see no mention of any changes to the core systems, such as upgrading or modernizing the hardware and operating systems of the database(s), or improving or replacing the backup systems and procedures.

        The money was spent on ‘cosmetic’, customer-facing changes. The money was not spent on underlying systems or staffing for those systems, i.e. the stuff that apparently failed.

  2. I worked for the FAA on these when they were installed in the early 90s and NOTAM system wasn’t rated as critical mission equipment like radar, comm, or Nav equipment.
    I wouldn’t be surprised if the computers were still running windows 95.