FAA IT delays mount

A critical system that is part of the Federal Aviation Administration's

plan to use satellite navigation is again behind schedule, FAA Administrator

Jane Garvey told Senate members last week, adding to a growing list of modernization

delays and funding concerns.

The Wide-Area Augmentation System (WAAS), a ground- and space-based

system of 24 reference stations that correct and verify location data received

from Global Positioning System satellites, had problems during testing.

The goal of WAAS is to improve the ability of aircraft to make precision

approaches and landings. Software problems had delayed WAAS by 14 months

to September 2000, but it has been delayed further.

Raytheon Co., the WAAS developer, discovered the most recent glitch

during tests of the system, Garvey told a joint hearing of the Senate Budget

Committee and the Senate Appropriations Committee's Transportation Subcommittee.

Although the tests demonstrated the system's ability to exceed its accuracy

requirements, tests also showed it could fail to stop the transmission of

an erroneous signal, said Peter Dunham, deputy manager of Raytheon's domestic

air traffic control business.

A new cost accounting system is key to controlling the cost and schedule

of key modernization programs, such as WAAS, that have repeatedly been delayed,

Garvey said. The delays come as the volume of air traffic has increased

about 4 percent per year, Garvey said.

Cost accounting system deployment has been completed for en-route and

oceanic air traffic control, but the schedule for terminal and tower services

and flight service stations has slipped until 2002 because of a $2 million

funding shortfall in the agency's fiscal 2000 appropriation. Garvey did

not attribute the schedule slips in air traffic system modernization to

funding woes but blamed difficult software development, changes in contract

management and a lack of cost accounting.

"We can't just blindly throw billions of dollars at our nation's airports

and expect congestion to disappear," Sen. Frank Lautenberg said in his opening

statement. "We can't just throw billions of dollars at our aviation equipment

manufacturers and expect an efficient, state-of-the-art system to emerge

at the other end."

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