We Apologize for the Delay (in ERAM)…

For the time being, the FAA’s En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) usage on live traffic is on hold pending what the FAA is calling a “review” of the program.

Early in the week of March 22, the FAA finally gave in to pressure to stop running the faulty versions of the ERAM software on live air traffic.

We were also being told that allegedly they were going to take the time to allow the program contractor (Lockheed Martin) to make software changes that would fix all the major ERAM bugs before running it again on live air traffic.

But early in April, it appeared that the FAA was considering having Salt Lake Center (ZLC) run the latest ERAM software version (U4), even though they knew it didn’t have all the necessary corrections to run reliably 24/7.

And at the same time Minneapolis Center (ZMP) had scheduled more ERAM live runs in mid April.  Eventually those tests were canceled, but it shows there are plenty of people in the FAA ERAM program that still don’t have any problem getting right back to their practice of running versions of ERAM software they know have major bugs.

Both indicate that the attitude for many within the FAA toward testing ERAM with known bugs on live traffic hasn’t changed at all, in spite of appearances that the program was going to proceed differently from this point out.  (Maybe those individuals just didn’t “get the memo”…)

Knowing the FAA I have to wonder if this delay/”review” is really just intended to placate those who were objecting to the way the ERAM program was progressing; not a genuine inclination to change the course of ERAM deployment.

Time will tell if the FAA gets right back to testing ERAM software versions they know have bugs.  But for the time being, they appear to be taking the time to do what they should have been doing all along, which is fixing the major known bugs before trying more tests on live traffic.

However, facilities continue to test ERAM in the background, forcing controllers to run live traffic on their inferior backup computer system (DARC/EDARC/EBUS).

Here’s a recap of notable ERAM Runs/Tests at the two ERAM keysites (note that after each of the failed tests, there were software updates made):

  • October 3, 2009:  Salt Lake Center (ZLC)  has failed ERAM test on live traffic forcing fallback to HOST.
  • January 30, 2009 to February 8, 2010 – Salt Lake Center (ZLC) extended live traffic ERAM run.  This controlled and sterile test apparently gives the FAA confidence that ERAM is ready for 24/7 use.
  • February 17, 2010 to February 23, 2010 – Salt Lake Center (ZLC) starts what was intended as permanent 24/7 run on ERAM that was aborted with fallback to HOST due to major problems (“SD” Version).
  • March 6, 2010 – March 8, 2010 – Seattle Center (ZSE) test running version T7(?); numerous major problems.
  • March 14, 2010 – March 20, 2010 – Salt Lake Center (ZLC) running version T9, forced to fallback to HOST due to problems.

I would love to believe that the FAA is going to take a different approach to the entire ERAM program from here on out.  But I’m not holding my breath…

One comment

  1. Sadly, I would say your analysis is right on the money. In order to fix the major problems we were experiencing in tracking and Flight Data Management (FDM) would require at least at 6-month slippage or more. Management is talking about, at most 6-weeks in hopes Lockheed can throw enough code at the wall that some of it may stick and actually fix a problem or two.

    The problems in tracking and track predication appear to be major ones or worse if they are fundamental to the design of the system. Instead of trying to patch an already flawed system Lockheed needs to take a step back in address the problems at their root cause(s).

    Will they? no, result, unfortunately more of the same. The danger is this time Congress is paying attention and asking questions. Want the FAA budget to get dramatically slashed? Just keep doing what you are doing on ERAM.

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