FAA DataComm delayed by 2 years
Delays in the software for controlling high altitude air traffic has led the Federal Aviation Administration to push back rollout of DataComm, another modernization effort that seeks to replace voice communications between pilot and air traffic controller with text messages.
In a Transportation Department office of inspector general report (.pdf) dated Aug. 1, auditors say the timeline for implementing some DataComm capabilities has slipped by 2 years, from 2016 to 2018 due to delays in another project known as En Route Automation Modernization. The FAA has undertaken a collection of air traffic control modernization efforts collectively known as NextGen--an at least $40 billion collection of programs meant to revamp air traffic control by replacing radar with Global Positioning System tracking.
ERAM replaces a three-decade-old long-range radar tracking system, but its implementation has been plagued by bad coding and delays. The system is a key enabler of other NextGen efforts; Transportation Inspector General Calvin Scovel has repeatedly warned that holdups with ERAM will have cascading effects on the entire NextGen effort.
The 2-year delay in DataComm could have a negative impact on airlines' willingness to invest in upgrading their fleet to meet NextGen standards, auditors warn in the new report, based on interviews with members of an RTCA NextGen task force. The RTCA, which once stood for Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, is an air control technical standards federal advisory committee.
DataComm itself is an important technology in realizing the cited benefits of NextGen, including more precise management of aircraft in order to reduce fuel consumption and emissions and lower airline operating costs.
- download the report, AV-2012-167 (.pdf)
Transformational FAA modernization programs slipping schedule
ERAM lateness having secondary NextGen effects, says GAO
FAA's ERAM is late, over budget, and could have 'cascading' effects on NextGen, says Scovel