Storage Station

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Air Traffic IT Control Issues Not Relegated to the States

The Station has been writing so often about the issues dogging U.S. air traffic IT systems lately that we could probably fill a daily blog called "Air Traffic Data Storage Station."

The reasons for this coverage here at eWEEK are many, and they deal with far more than simply IT and data storage. Most of us use airlines. We want to know that these complicated systems, which control the way our aircraft are shuttled on and off the runways, work. We want our transportation to be reasonably on time, so as not to mess up our personal plans, and we don't want planes to bump into each other. These are reasonable expectations.

Take a look at The Station's assessment of the Federal Aviation Administration's most recent problems.

When you're done with that, read our latest eWEEK report about how the FAA is planning to replace its way-way-obsolete systems. The IT powers that be in that important institution are indeed moving to solve these problems, and we outline exactly how they're going to do it. Nobody else has this.

These airport IT issues are not relegated to the States. The BBC reported Sept. 25 that the United Kingdom's flight-control system also has experienced some similar situations. In fact, these were problematic enough that airports across the United Kingdom were affected by delays of flights using airspace in the southeast of England.

The latest system crash occurred during the rush hour late in the afternoon, according to the BBC story. It wasn't immediately known how much of a traffic backlog was built up and what "knock-on" effects (that's Brit for follow-up) the incident will have.

Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted airports reported delays, along with Cardiff, Bristol, Southampton, Manchester, Belfast, Edinburgh and Glasgow.

So this is becoming an international problem. Some of these air traffic control systems are ancient -- in Internet terms, more than 10 years in service -- and must be upgraded or replaced. No machine can last forever, especially those that take 24/7 poundings for years.

There was another related story today from The Associated Press, which I serve as a correspondent: Government Accountability Office aviation investigator Gerald Dillingham told a congressional panel Sept. 25 that even though the FAA "has given a higher priority to runway safety," the number of close calls on airport runways is up over the past year and the risk of a collision is too high.

In response, FAA Chief Operating Officer Hank Krakowski says the agency has made "solid progress" this year. He notes that the 24 serious incidents in 2007 were down from a high of 53 incidents in 2001.

And so it goes.

Chris Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger

Chris J. Preimesberger is Editor-in-Chief of eWEEK and responsible for all the publication's coverage. In his 13 years and more than 4,000 articles at eWEEK, he has distinguished himself in reporting...