FTI Review Panel Report Out On FAA Telecommunications Outage


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FTI Review Panel Report Out On FAA Telecommunications Outage

By Daniel Baxter

November 15, 2010 - Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) accepted the second and final report on the November 2009 telecommunications outage prepared by an independent review panel assigned to investigate the incident. 

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt had asked the panel to examine the cause of the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) outage and to recommend strategies to reduce the potential for similar future outages. He also asked the panel to examine the FTI's present and future architecture as it relates to emerging technology and future FAA systems. 

The FTI system operates 24 hours a day seven days a week and provides communication support for the National Airspace System. Harris Corporation operates and maintains the FTI for the FAA.


Last April the FAA began carrying out the panel's initial recommendations which included; developing new automated tools for making configuration changes to network devices, increasing FTI workforce staffing during network maintenance. In addition developing an alternate means for the entry of flight plan information to limit the impact of telecommunications network failures on the flight plan entry system, creating two network enterprise management centers which give the FAA greater situational awareness of network activity and maintenance and installing additional cybersecurity measures throughout the National Airspace System.  

The final report on the FTI outage lays out 14 long-term strategic recommendations the FAA should pursue as it transitions to future network systems. The FAA has already begun evaluating and working through the recommendations which revolve around five areas. 

On the morning of Nov. 19, 2009 the FTI experienced an outage that resulted in system-wide delays. During the four-hour event, air traffic controllers managed flight plan data manually and safely according to FAA contingency plans. Air traffic control radar and communication were not affected during that time and critical safety systems remained up and running.


The panel confirmed the FAA's preliminary assessment that the November outage was caused by a series of errors in network maintenance and monitoring during a telecommunications upgrade. 

The panel is made up of, the FAA Chief Information Officer David Bowen; Assistant to the President and U.S. Chief Technology Officer Aneesh Chopra; Department of Transportation Chief Information Officer Nitin Pradhan; Noblis CEO Amr Elsawy; former Director of Command, Control, Communications, and Computer Systems Vice Admiral (Ret) Nancy Brown; FAA Air Traffic Organization (ATO) CIO Steve Cooper; and FAA Assistant Chief Counsel for Acquisition and Commercial Law Patricia.

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