Software Caused FAA Air Traffic Management To Be Offline





Software Caused FAA Air Traffic Management To Be Offline

By Daniel Baxter


November 20, 2009 - Early Thursday morning about 5 AM the FAA’s air traffic management services, including flight plan processing was down due to a software configuration problems that affected their routers. The failure was attributed to a software configuration problem within the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) in Salt Lake City. As a result FAA services used primarily for traffic flow and flight planning were unavailable electronically. 

The problem was resolved at approximately 9:00 am EST. Air traffic control radar and communication with aircraft were not affected during this time and critical safety systems remained up and running. The Federal Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) is the primary means for FAA's telecommunications services and it forms the basic infrastructure for the Next Generation Air Transportation System, or NextGen. It replaces FAA's legacy networks to provide consolidated telecom services for the 5,000 facilities and 30,000 circuits in the National Airspace System with reduced costs and improved bandwidth and security.


The FTI network supports National Airspace System (NAS) operations by providing the connectivity required by systems including the Enhanced Traffic management Systems (ETMS), the Standard Terminal Automated Replacement System (STARS)and the Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS). In addition, applications like e-mail, Internet, payroll, and other administrative services are on the FTI Mission Support Network. FTI provides an enterprise-wide approach to information security assurance. It meets the latest government standards for information security, and offers improved security services, like encryption. 

The National Airspace Data Interchange Network (NADIN), which processes flight planning, was affected because it relies on the FTI services.  During the outage air traffic controllers managed flight plan data manually and safely according to FAA contingency plans.  

Processing more the 2 million messages daily, NADIN is used for data interchange within the U.S., and between the U.S. and other nations to communicate flight plans for commercial and general aviation, weather, and advisory notices to pilots. It is also a pass-through data service providing communications between foreign countries.  

The NADIN network is the U.S. gateway to the international aviation community, and the FAA interface to the global Aeronautical Telecommunications network. No aircraft flies in the American National Airspace System, or enters or leaves the NAS without having filed its flight plan across the FAA’s message switched network.

The FAA reported that there were no indications that the outage occurred as a result of a cyber attack. A team of FAA technical and safety experts is investigating the outage.  FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt met with representatives from Harris Corporation, the company that manages the FTI, to discuss system corrections to prevent similar outages in the future. This is the second time in 15 months that ATC’s telecommunications infrastructure was down forcing controllers to enter flight data into ARTCC processing systems by hand.

AirTran Airways informed its passengers that due to flight plan filing system outages some flight operations may be affected throughout Thursday and outages affect all airlines and locations around the nation. Passengers holding reservations for travel scheduled for Thursday, November 19, 2009 on AirTran Airways may make changes to their itinerary without penalty. Customers may make these changes free of charge as long as travel is completed by midnight, Sunday, November 22, 2009. Flight changes will be honored based on space availability without change fees or fare adjustments.

 ©AvStop Online Magazine                                                                 Contact Us                                                  Return To News

AvStop Aviation News and Resource Online Magazine

Grab this Headline Animator