Modernization, the FAA Way

Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enroute air traffic controllers started using a system called ERIDS (En Route Information Display System – the FAA loves acronyms) a few years ago.  ERIDS is a computer system installed at each sector (radar position) that can access and display a variety of information controllers need while they’re working.

Unfortunately ERIDS was poorly designed and uses inferior or obsolete technology.

The idea of merging all the information controllers need into a single source is fantastic.  But ERIDS is so horribly implemented that it’s hardly an improvement over previous methods used to do the same thing.

I don’t know how ERIDS was developed; it just simply showed up at our facility one day after we had had …

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Blowing the Lid Off the FAA’s “Safety Culture” (Again)

Not that it’s any surprise to me, but CNN reports that in its investigations the federal Office of Special Counsel found more than two dozen safety related concerns were not addressed properly within the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The federal Office of Special Counsel, which investigates allegations of reprisal against whistle-blowers, tells CNN it has made a “positive determination” that the FAA improperly responded to 27 current cases of FAA employee whistle-blowers warning of safety violations ranging from airline maintenance concerns to runway and air traffic control issues.

It’s what I and a score of other FAA employees have been saying all along: that the FAA ignores safety concerns to the detriment of the aviation system.  And I’m sure …

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ATSAP In Action

The facility where I work as an FAA air traffic controller recently began using the Air Trafic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) I blogged about here.

We all got “training” on the program and how it worked and how to file safety reports.

Within an hour of receiving my training I filed my first ATSAP report on the the interim altitude data block problem I detailed in the same blog entry noted above.

Here’s a summary of that issue:  in April my facility decided to start using an alternate method of coordinating altitudes on aircraft with adjacent center air traffic facilities via our computer system.  Unfortunately under certain circumstances this altitude information doesn’t successfully transfer to the next controller, …

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Where are the Business Leaders?

The news are filled these days with banks, automakers and other major companies that are having financial difficulties.  Many of these difficulties are directly due to poor decisions by the managers and executive/financial boards of those organizations.

A recent CNN business headline was that amusement/theme park giant Six Flags was filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy “in an effort to shed $1.8 billion in debt.”

Six Flags President and CEO Mark Shapiro further said in the same article that:

…the company actually performed well in 2008, attracting 25 million visitors and making $275 million…

But apparently things aren’t as rosy as the Six Flags leadership would have you believe.  This website states that:

Six Flags has lost money every year of

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The FAA’s “Safety Culture”

I hate to only blog about the FAA, but as I’ve been busy with outdoor home projects as the weather has improved and not geeking out otherwise, it’s one of the topics that seems appropriate for here, and it’s also a way to get some of the frustration I experience working for the FAA out of my system.

That, and I just wrote about the FAA’s preoccupation with the appearance of safety instead of any real approach to safety within the aviation and air traffic industry and within a week I experienced firsthand another example of that approach.

Then last week I went to another of the mandatory all hands briefings that the management team gives all air traffic controllers …

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Tweaking the Numbers: FAA Style

One of the rookie air traffic controllers in my area had an operational error last week.

An operational error in air traffic control occurs when a controller fails to follow the separation standards and gets two or more aircraft too close together, or when he gets an aircraft into another controller’s airspace (or other protected airspace) without permission.

The rookie was transferring a flight to another controller which usually involves taking the data block (the computer information tag on the radar scope associated with an airplane) and flashing it at another controller.  This is called an automated “handoff”.  The receiving controller sees the new data block flashing at him on his radar display and makes a computer entry to accept …

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The FAA Big Stick Again…

A few weeks ago I recounted an incident I had at work with my Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) air traffic control supervisor.

In it I talked about FAA management’s approach to dealing with  employees who either have professional disagreements with managers or raise safety concerns.

FAA management loves the “big stick” approach in addressing those situations. In the FAA if you speak up objecting to anything that management does (or doesn’t do) they bring out their big sticks to beat the employees down with.  They’re not interested in correcting the problem or doing a better job; only silencing the employees.

Field managers in the FAA have been encouraged by headquarters to beat down employees in order to show they’re really …

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Dumb Luck

Although the FAA would have everyone believe that “We are currently in the safest period in commercial aviation history” (Statement of Lynn Osmus, Acting Administrator, Federal Aviation Administration, on the FAA Reauthorization Act of 2009, Before the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation, February 11, 2009), it’s only because there hasn’t been a big body count from an airline crash in the United States; not because there haven’t been any crashes; nor because of any methodical or measured approach to flying safety.

A crash in Amsterdam on February 25, 2009 highlights what is a foolhardy and dangerous approach to correcting problems with aviation safety.

Dutch investigators have determined that the Turkish Airlines Boeing 737-800 flight

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Concorde Cockpit Videos

Like a lot of air traffic controllers I’m a bit of an aviation geek (even though center controllers never actually see airplanes except as blips on radar scopes).

Undoubtedly the most amazing passenger aircraft to ever see scheduled service was the supersonic Concorde, which first entered service in 1976 and flew until 2003.

A bit of interesting trivia from the Wikipedia entry:

Concorde was able to overtake or outrun the spin of the earth. On westbound flights it was possible to arrive at a local time earlier than the flight’s departure time. On certain early evening transatlantic flights departing from Heathrow or Paris, it was possible to take off just after sunset and catch up with the sun,

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Day Tripping and FAA Amateur Hour

I don’t normally go for cute kid videos, but this one includes some post-dentist  “day-tripper” action that I enjoyed a lot.

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On a personal note it was reiterated again what a bunch of amateurs work in FAA administration/information technology.

That fact is highlighted by videos such as this and this.

I (as well as many of my air traffic colleagues) admittedly have a great deal of intolerance for incompetence in FAA management and administration as air traffic controllers get zero leeway to make mistakes in their jobs.

And if air traffic controllers make mistakes while working the situation is scrutinized in great detail afterwards (Monday morning quarterbacking by office people or to quote a friend, “Use …

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