More Signficant ERAM Problems

Salt Lake Center (ZLC) reverted back to the HOST computer system last night due to major problems after starting an ERAM run last week that was supposed to be permanent.

I’m sure the FAA and the contractor Lockheed Martin will write it off as just another “glitch” (i.e. part of the development cycle), but it’s another glaring demonstration of how unreliable the ERAM software still is, even though the FAA continues to test it on live traffic, expecting air traffic controllers to simply work around its many problems and keep aircraft safely separated nonetheless.

ZLC started running ERAM on what was supposed to be a permanent basis on the morning of Wednesday, February 17.

They had previously completed an an …

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Dodging Responsibility for ERAM

FAA management doesn’t really like to make decisions.  That’s primarily because they know if they make decisions they can potentially be held accountable for those decisions.

So they’ve decided that the safest tact is to avoid making decisions whenever possible.

If those same managers started as air traffic controllers, part of the reason many of them quit working airplanes and took management positions so quickly after completing training is that because many didn’t like making lots of real time decisions as controllers they knew they would be held accountable for later.  (That and most of them weren’t very good at making decisions as air traffic controllers.)

As an example, a few years ago I vividly remember witnessing a conversation a …

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ERAM Mitigation Schemes

There are a lot of center/enroute air traffic controllers that are interested in what’s happening with ERAM, including those at facilities that have already run ERAM on live traffic.

They’ve heard some vague stories of problems with the system, but very little details.

Salt Lake Center (ZLC) ran an eight day test that ended last week, and when it concluded we heard…nothing…

My facility, Minneapolis Center (ZMP) leapfrogged Seattle Center (ZSE) as an ERAM key site, becoming an “alternate key site” for a variety of reasons.  One of the reasons was because of the upcoming Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada which starts February 12, 2010 and is going to impact ZSE’s traffic.

In the off chance you’re still buying the …

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The Real Reason for the ERAM Rush

The FAA is frantically trying to get its new ERAM computer system into use at its first two enroute test facilities (as well as a third, supplemental test facility).

They’re in the midst of an eight day test now with live traffic at Salt Lake Center (ZLC).

Regardless of what the FAA is telling the press, ERAM is behind schedule, and falling further behind every day.

Its own NextGen Commitments and FY09 Work Plan had ERAM running at 6 of the 20 centers in 2009, and at the remaining 14 in 2010.  Has anyone noticed the date on the calendar lately?

Part of the big rush to get ERAM into use in spite of its problems is because the FAA …

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Good Luck Brothers!

Tonight marks the Initial Operational Capability (IOC) of ERAM at my facility, Minneapolis ARTCC (ZMP).  It’s the first test of ERAM on live traffic at ZMP, starting at around 11 PM local time.

I wish my air traffic control coworkers the best of luck during the test!

But not to worry, because I’m sure there will be lots of FAA managers earning overtime pay to “supervise” the affair.  We had extra managers on duty when Salt Lake City (ZLC) went IOC a while ago.

Most importantly, as the last line of this memorandum from the ZMP ERAM Lead says:

“Cake will be served!”

The FAA is famous for having cakes as a way of self-congratulations for a job well done.…

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Who Wants to be a Guinea Pig?

Anyone who’s been paying attention might wonder as an enroute center controller why I’ve been criticizing ERAM so much lately.

After all, ERAM is the next generation enroute center tool that one would assume is supposed to help air traffic controllers do their jobs better.

I made the following statement back in this entry:

Anything the FAA could offer to controllers to decrease their workload and provide them help in reducing the potential for mistakes would be welcome.

If indeed I believed ERAM was going to make my job easier, that might be true.

Although there is lots of underlying capability for future expansion, ERAM doesn’t really include any new tools for controllers.

We’re not guessing about what ERAM …

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Damn the Torpedoes/ERAMming Speed and DARC

Here’s another indication that the FAA knows that En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) isn’t ready for use on live air traffic.

Air traffic controllers at my facility are getting extra training on the Direct Access Radar Channel (DARC) system, which is the current backup system for the primary HOST computer that processes and displays the radar information for enroute controllers.

(Note:  Somewhere along the line DARC became EDARC for “Enhanced” DARC, then Enhanced Back-Up Surveillance, or EBUS,  but my radar display still says “DARC” when its running and has essentially the same functionality in all versions, so that’s what I’m going to call it.)

FAA orders require that all controllers get yearly refresher training on the DARC system, just to …

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