Trying to Throw Me Under the Bus

(Note that for reasons that should become clear below this article wasn’t originally published back in 2012 when I wrote it.  It has recently been edited somewhat as well.)

I started writing about some of my air traffic experiences back in 2007.

At that time the FAA had imposed work rules on the controller workforce, and it was pretty miserable going into work and discovering that in spite of the FAA wanting to be “large and in charge”, managed to time and time prove how incompetent they really were.

To borrow a phrase, they kept proving that they “couldn’t manage their way out of a paper bag.”

It was a very frustrating time to be working as an air traffic …

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ERAM is Back

Although it wasn’t intended to be, this blog evolved into one primarily about the FAA’s attempts to replace its aged HOST computer system with En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), mostly because there has been (and continues) to be a void of information about the project.

It’s been a while since my last entry because my facility – Minneapolis ARTCC (ZMP) – hasn’t used ERAM on live traffic since spring of 2010.  Given that little information about ERAM was forthcoming, there wasn’t much I could write about until now.

The program continues to be delayed by numerous problems and bugs, and costs continue to escalate.

ERAM was first used on live traffic at the key sites, Salt Lake Center (ZLC) and …

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ERAM: Definitely Close Enough For Government Work

It’s official: both the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and the air traffic controllers’ union (NATCA) have decided that ERAM (En Route Automation Modernization) is close enough for government work.

My facility, Minneapolis Center (ZMP) will start running the latest version of ERAM this week, planning to run it continuously.  Denver Center (ZDV) started running it full time over a week ago.

We recently ran the same version of the software for a week towards the end of May.  Apparently the primary reason ZMP didn’t start running ERAM full time then was because we don’t have enough personnel trained (mostly support staff) with ERAM.

Does that mean that the latest version has all the major bugs fixed?  Not by a long …

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ERAM: Is it Good Enough or Not?

The Federal Aviation Administration’s (FAA) En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) development continues, slowly but surely.

The entire ERAM program was a disaster that the FAA had been in denial about for years.  In 2009 they were proclaiming the program on time and on budget.

When they started trying to use ERAM at Salt Lake Center (ZLC) they found it was unstable and bug ridden.  But they had no way to test it other than on live air traffic.  So they did.

Because timelines were clearly more important to the FAA than safety, in spite of all the problems they went ahead with their plans to deploy ERAM at other facilities (including mine – Minneapolis Center or ZMP).

However, in the …

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ERAM: (Still) “Close Enough For Government Work”

The FAA has been continuing to test its En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) at its two keysite facilities, Salt Lake Center (ZLC) and Seattle Center (ZSE).

They’re now planning on expanding the program further (again), in spite of the significant ongoing bugs the software still has.

ERAM is one of the cornerstones of the FAA much touted NextGen system, and was intended to replace the aging HOST computer system that runs the radar displays at the FAA’s enroute air traffic control centers.

They first started testing ERAM in the fall of 2009 at Salt Lake Center (ZLC), and quickly discovered that it wasn’t even close to being ready for use with live air traffic.  That didn’t stop them then from …

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Another Report on ERAM: Late and Over Budget

A reader tipped me off to an article regarding the Federal Aviation Administration’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) project on FierceGovernmentIT dated January 19th, 2011.  (Thanks, Dave!)

The article states that ERAM:

…won’t reach nationwide operational readiness until August 2014 and will cost $330 million more than expected…

But it’s no news that the ERAM project has been delayed by problems, and those problems are costing the government (and the taxpayers) millions.

I’ve been patiently waiting to read the results of an Office of Inspector General audit on the ERAM program that was initiated in September of 2010.  I know that many of those working on the ERAM project at my facility were interviewed by the Inspector General last …

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ERAM Habituation

It’s been a while since my last FAA En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) update, mostly because where I’m sitting it’s been pretty quiet on the ERAM development front.

That’s not to say that ERAM still doesn’t have its share of critical bugs, and it’s still likely not ready for deployment at the busier facilities elsewhere in the country.

I have heard of bugs that were corrected re-appearing in newer ERAM versions still, a problem they’ve been having from the very beginning.

ERAM also still has the potential to crash both an adjacent facility’s HOST computer system, as well as an adjacent ERAM computer system.

But both Salt Lake Center (ZLC) and Seattle Center (ZSE), the two key sites for ERAM, …

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A Long Overdue ERAM Update

It’s been a while since my last entry and although I’ve had plenty to write about, I’ve been enjoying the summer here in Minnesota that will inevitably end all too soon.

But I did want to write an update on the status of the FAA’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) since I’ve written about it so much previously.

ERAM is the enroute air traffic control system computer replacement that’s supposed to be a cornerstone of the FAA’s much touted NextGen air traffic control system, although due to numerous bugs and problems with the ERAM program its testing on live traffic was suspended this spring.

Since my facility (Minneapolis ARTCC or ZMP) is no longer a key site for ERAM …

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Protection from ERAM

We know that the new En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) computer program is still full of bugs.

The ERAM software is the program that is supposed to replace the FAA’s HOST computer that currently runs its enroute controllers’ radar displays and processes flight plan information.

Because of the deployment schedule (the FAA likes to call it “waterfall”) for ERAM, it must be able to interface properly with those facilities running the current enroute computer system (the HOST computer).

Of course the plan is to eventually have all the facilities running ERAM, but the switchover won’t be instantaneous nationwide; some facilities will run ERAM before others.

However, there is at least one software bug in ERAM that they’ve known about since …

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Another FAA Safety Program

I’ve always alleged that the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is more concerned with the appearances of being a safety oriented organization than actually acting like one.

The FAA tends to talk a good game when it comes to safety but then often fails to take action when it comes to improving safety within aviation and/or the air traffic system.

It’s also a fact that the FAA can be outright reckless when it comes to safety issues, as demonstrated by their willingness to test their En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) software on the flying public while it was still ridden with bugs; well before it was suited for the task, apparently simply assuming the air traffic controllers using it would …

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