NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

New FAA System Much Too Slow

April 7, 1999

After spending $2.2 billion on a desperately needed new computer system for the nation's busiest airports, the Federal Aviation Administration is having to delay its installation and go back to the drawing board. It seems the system, called STARS, is two to three times slower than old equipment in displaying aircraft radar positions and responding to air traffic controllers' commands.

  • While it was scheduled to be placed in high-traffic facilities such as Washington's Reagan National Airport last month, it will first be installed in airports with much less traffic.
  • The contractor, Raytheon Co., called recent tests of the system "unofficial and incomplete" and said they conflict with the company's own measurements.
  • Experts say response-time problems are due in part to the system being adapted from what was supposed to be its backup computer system.
  • Also, air traffic controllers requested software changes, and parts of the system rely on older equipment.

The upgrade is one of the biggest modernization projects underway in the nation's air traffic control systems.

Source: Alan Levin, "FAA: New Air Traffic System Too Slow to Use," USA Today, April 7, 1999.


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