Crippled radar latest snafu for US air traffic : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

WIRE:04/24/2000 18:08:00 ET Crippled radar latest snafu for US air traffic

BOSTON, April 24 (Reuters) - The broken radar equipment at Boston's Logan Airport, set to be fixed by Wednesday, is the latest high-profile glitch to hit the ageing U.S. air traffic control system and is fuelling the debate over its adequacy. On Monday, flights trickled into Logan at a rate of about 24 per hour after 40-knot winds knocked down the airport surveillance radar (ASR-9) system and twisted its antenna early on Saturday morning. Normally, more than 60 flights per hour can land in clear weather.

The damage forced airlines to cancel hundreds of flights and delay scores of others at the nation's ninth-busiest airport on the heavily travelled Easter holiday weekend.

"We're optimistic. Things are going well," Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) spokeswoman Arlene Salac said. "The antenna and base have been installed and now we're working on the software. We still have to test it, but we had said it would be Wednesday. It may be sooner."

Salac said it was the first time any of the 134 ASR-9s installed at U.S. airports had failed.

Northrop Grumman Corp (NOC.N), the Los Angeles-based defence contractor that built the radar -- it no longer makes the ASR-9s -- said the Logan system was installed and fully operational as of June 1991.

"The FAA is responsible for the installation and maintenance of the ASR-9," Northrop spokesman Jim Reinhard said.

The fifth-largest U.S. defence contractor said the ASR-9 system was operating in 10 other countries and had never experienced a similar failure. The system, which Reinhard said costs several million dollars, is rated to withstand winds of up to 85 knots.

"Northrop Grumman is working closely with the FAA in support of their investigation," Reinhard said.

The FAA has been frequently criticised for failing to upgrade and modernise the nation's air traffic control system.

"There are a number of problems with the equipment but at the heart of it is the growing demand for services has far outstripped the ability of the existing technology," said Marvin Smith, head of the air traffic control department at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University.

"We're stuck with '50s technology and 21st century demand," he said.

Earlier this month, a power failure forced Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport to reroute planes to nearby airports for several hours. Over the winter computer failures forced Boston and Washington airports to cut back operations.

Equipment problems are not new or limited to the U.S. East Coast corridor.

Between December 1997 and June 1998, the Kansas City Air Route Traffic Control Center's computer system, which directs air travel over parts of 11 states, malfunctioned five times, according to a General Accounting Office report.

"We're still working with Univac computers," said Mike Perrone, head of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, which represents FAA technicians. "They keep trying to upgrade, modify and each day the system gets older."

The FAA is testing a new air traffic control system at its facilities in El Paso, Texas and Syracuse, New York, but the date for the new systems installation across the country has not been set.

-- Martin Thompson (, April 24, 2000


Apr 24, 2000 - 08:33 PM

Replacement System Up and Running at Logan Airport

The Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) - An airport radar system that collapsed at Logan International Airport, delaying hundreds of Easter weekend flights, was replaced Monday and the new radar was tracking flights by afternoon. The Airport Surveillance Radar 9 system, installed in 1991, was used by air traffic controllers to track weather and planes within an eight-mile radius of Logan. It was built to withstand hurricane-force winds but collapsed Saturday morning under winds half that strength.

Air traffic controllers switched to a slower backup system that allowed for only about 26 flights an hour, half the airport's usual capacity. More than 500 flights were canceled, and hundreds of others were delayed.

"The ASR9 is considered 99.6 percent reliable," Federal Aviation Administration spokeswoman Arlene Salac said Monday. "This is that .4 percent."

Salac said the FAA does not plan to inspect ASR9 units located at 133 other U.S. airports. --- On the Net: FAA:

-- Carl Jenkins (, April 25, 2000.

Martin, this is the biggest story of the day. If an 85-knot line cannot stand a 40-knot blast, this spells BIG TROOUBLE. (And, it was only installed 9 years ago--not ancient by any means.)

And, Carl, if you have not checked it yet, by all means check out Martin's thread, "Postings."

-- Uncle Fred (, April 25, 2000.

Just a reminder of the Past. From the archives. I worked in an AIR TRAFFIC CONTROL CENTER for 17 years and never ever swa this many continued problems that have occured this year.


That patch again : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

Published Wednesday, January 26, 2000 Y2K bug detected at Metro Airport Statewire

ROMULUS, Mich. (AP) -- A previously undetected Y2K problem has emerged in computers at Detroit Metropolitan Airport, the leader of a radar technicians union says.

The problem does not pose any dangers to travelers, and it does not affect flight operations, said Al Gardy, principal representative for Michigan and Wisconsin for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists Union. PASS represents about 160 radar technicians in the two states and about 11, 000 nationwide.

Gardy said Monday that technicians discovered the problem Friday at Metro when Federal Aviation Administration personnel tried to extract data about a recent incident in which two aircraft had flown close to each other.

The computer was unable to retrieve the stored data, Gardy said. And the date on the computer' s editing program read January 1970.

The problem affects only the retrieval of stored data. It has nothing to do with ongoing air traffic control operations.

Gardy said FAA officials told him the problem is national but that a software upgrade due to go in this week will correct it.

The problem might have arisen because of efforts to prevent Y2K problems.

" It did not occur until a Y2K patch was put in, " Gardy told the Detroit Free Press for a story Tuesday. thisStory=81320879

-- Martin Thompson (, January 27, 2000

-- Martin Thompson (, April 25, 2000.

[Fair use for education and research purpose only]

Logan's radar woes frustrate travelers

During repairs, Boston flights head north Tuesday, April 25, 2000

By SARAH EARLE Monitor staff


Andrea Wetzig and her friends from Burgstaedt, Germany, flew in from Kentucky with hopes of spending three days sightseeing in Boston. By 12:30 yesterday afternoon, the only sights they'd seen were airport terminals and the loading area outside Manchester Airport.

Not that there weren't plenty of sights to see around here yesterday, as numerous planes headed for Boston's Logan Airport ended up in Manchester instead. Mounds of unclaimed luggage. Lines of confused and frustrated passengers. Tired airline employees trying hard to bite their tongues.

But with the day waning, the sight Wetzig and her friends wanted to see the most - a Boston-bound bus - was proving a rare breed.

"We're a little frustrated," Wetzig said, as she shielded her face from a sudden sharp wind. "We lose hours and hours."

As a wind-toppled radar antenna continued to cause delays and cancellations at Logan Airport yesterday, hundreds of itineraries were rerouted through Manchester, causing a significant increase in the small airport's traffic and changing plans for many travelers.

Airport Director Kevin Dillon estimated the airport sustained a 30 percent increase in traffic between Saturday morning and yesterday afternoon, when Logan technicians succeeded in replacing the antenna. Overall, Dillon said, operations were running smoothly. But the detour was adding four or five hours to the rerouted passengers' trips and forcing long shifts on airline employees.

When a big gray bus finally hissed up to the curb alongside Wetzig and her friends, the group already had been waiting for almost an hour. The 90-minute bus ride would put them in Boston by about 2:30, 21/2 hours later than they'd planned.

Inside and outside the airport, the stories were the same. Unplanned layovers, long bus rides, frustrating delays.

"It hasn't been as bad as I thought, though," said Paula Prittie, a ticket clerk for United, mustering a smile. Beside her a manager explained testily to a customer that he couldn't make the buses get there any faster. "We've been working 18 and 20 hours at a time try to accommodate our customers," he said, before dashing off without explanation to the other side of the airport, tie flying.

Not everyone was cursing the delays, though. "The benefit is the fact that we get to market the airport," said Dillon. "There's a whole level of passenger base out there that believe Logan is the only airport that can handle their needs. . . If we can get them here once and show them the advantages, we think they'll come back."

Five years ago, Dillon said, the Federal Aviation Administration would never have considered the idea of routing air traffic through Manchester. But major improvements to the Manchester Airport as well as better relationships among airports have paved the way for such an effort, he said.

And what an effort it was. Airport vendors, courier services and bus services were all getting in on the action as travelers and their luggage were dumped in Manchester.

"It's like another holiday," said Gil Cantin, a driver for ABC Courier Service, as he stood in a sea of luggage making marks on a clipboard and talking on a two-way radio.

Nearby, a planeload of passengers who'd arrived here from Chicago milled about, waiting for the familiar sights of their suitcases.

And among the weary, frustrated travelers, there were a few notes of optimism. "We're actually lucky, because a lot of the flights have been canceled," said Lauren Schwer, a Boston College student on her way back to school after Easter break.

Altogether, more than 500 flights were canceled at Logan Airport following the Saturday morning windstorm that toppled the radar antenna. By yesterday afternoon, the antenna had been replaced, but not in time to save hundreds of passengers from detours and delays.

The Easter holiday, along with overlapping school vacations, further mired activity at both airports. "This probably wasn't the best time for this to happen," Dillon said. "The seasoned and savvy travelers pretty much take it in stride . . . but there are a lot of families and students who might only fly once a year. . . . This isn't the best thing for them to go through."

Then again, they might as well learn what Schwer knows. "You learn to expect minor problems," he said. "I haven't had a single flight in the past year that went perfectly."

-- (, April 25, 2000.

Logan should return to normal with replacement of antenna by Robin Washington Tuesday, April 25, 2000

Logan Airport travel should be back to normal today after work crews hastily installed a new radar antenna flown in on an Air Force cargo jet to replace one blown over in Saturday's windstorm, aviation officials said.

The knockout of the $300,000 ASR-9 antenna had caused massive flight cancellations and delays until its replacement was installed so quickly it seemed to surprise even the officials overseeing the repair.

``It went as perfectly as it could. Quite frankly, we weren't prepared to do this conference until tomorrow,'' Bart Bartanowicz, regional administrator for the Federal Aviation Administration, told reporters yesterday.

Officials initially expected repairs to take as long as five days.

With the broken equipment, air traffic controllers had to rely on triangular ``composite'' radar from Truro, Cummington and Providence, R.I., to guide in about 20 to 22 arrivals per hour.

By yesterday afternoon, that number was increased to 44 per hour once the new antenna was up and running.

Although the control tower had returned to normal, airlines that had re-routed planes to other regional airports could not immediately reschedule them.

``A lot of it depends on how quickly they are able to react to the system increasing its capacity to meet their demand,'' said Joe Davies, the FAA's air traffic manager for Boston.

As of mid-afternoon, 173 flights had been canceled.

With many travelers aware of the cancellations and delays, the airport remained sparsely populated, with lines at ticket counters half as long as on Saturday.

Fewer travelers didn't mean on-time flights, however.

Retirees Frank Bean and James Burton hoped their early departure for Myrtle Beach, S.C., would allow them to take in a round of golf later in the day, but their flight was canceled.

``We should be teeing off right now,'' Bean said around noon.

Kendra Briggs of Somerville was able to catch a 6 a.m. Philadelphia flight and fly back the same day, if a bit delayed.

``We were scheduled to land at 2:15 and we took off (from Philadelphia) at about 3,'' she said.

``It was the radar. We were waiting for the plane to get there from Boston.''

Officials remained perplexed as to exactly why the antenna, built to withstand hurricane-force winds, failed in wind conditions of half that speed.

``We're going to be crating up the equipment and sending it back to Oklahoma,'' Bartanowicz said. ``There will be a full-blown evaluation.''

-- Martin Thompson (, April 25, 2000.

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