Harris Corp. is apparent winner of FAA's OASIS

Harris Corp. is the apparent winner of a Federal Aviation Administration contract to upgrade a system that supplies general aviation pilots with weather data and flight-planning services.

With the Operational and Supportability Implementation System (OASIS) contract worth as much as $125 million the FAA will replace the current aging hardware and software at up to 61 automated flight service stations around the country to improve flight-related information for general aviation pilots and to save on system maintenance costs.

The flight service stations are used by the FAA to communicate essential flight information such as weather special notices and flight planning to general aviation pilots. General aviation which does not include commercial airlines and military aircraft makes up about 95 percent of all U.S. flights.

Paul H. Smith senior manager of Air Traffic Services at the National Business Aviation Association which represents corporate aviation said general aviators sorely need an updated system. "It's really past time " he said. "The technology has been available for some time but the government is slow in making this happen. [The FAA needs] to field these units now."

The Benefits

The major benefits of OASIS Smith said include data on weather conditions before and during a flight information on the availability of flight paths through military air space and eventually the location of other planes in the air and enhanced search and rescue capabilities. "You can't fly unless you have a good grasp of what is happening with the weather " he said. "This will really benefit low-end general aviation."

The existing automation system infrastructure is 15 years old and expensive to maintain said Bob Levin assistant director of the Transportation Group at the General Accounting Office. "The current system is hard to sustain and expensive. The FAA can't sustain that forever."

The current system also cannot be expanded to accommodate current and future functional requirements such as free flight which will allow pilots and airlines not the FAA to choose the best flight route based on current weather and traffic conditions saving commercial airlines billions of dollars.

Martin Shuey vice president of air traffic control at the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association said he believes the FAA will initially install the system in only nine service stations. However he urged the agency to replace the system at all 61 stations to achieve the full benefit of OASIS. "OASIS is a positive step for the FAA " he said.

The FAA confirmed that it had reduced the field of bidders to Harris but would not formally say if Harris would be awarded the contract. The agency is expected to sign a contract with the company at the end of the month.

Harris beat out other bidders Electronic Data Systems Corp. I-NET Inc. Boeing and the incumbent E-Systems. EDS and Harris were the only companies to have made it in the competitive range. EDS officials declined to comment.

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