A major air traffic route was put in jeopardy late last week when a subcontractor's error temporarily shut down the Federal Aviation Association's Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI) system for 20 minutes. This mistake left about half of the air traffic controllers working last Wednesday at the Oakland Center with no way to communicate with planes or to use landline telephones to call fellow traffic control sites. The Oakland Center oversees the northern half of California and parts of western Nevada, in addition to many millions of square miles of airspace over the Pacific Ocean.
When the failure occurred, the only way Oakland Center controllers could communicate with fellow FAA facilities was via cell phones. From there, the controllers had to provide instructions to the aircraft via surrounding FAA facilities over emergency radio frequencies.
The National Air Traffic Controllers Association said the root of the outage can be traced back to last Tuesday when one of the subcontractors realized there was an issue. And while the telecom system was placed on a backup line, none of the air traffic controllers were informed that there was a problem and that a potential shut down could potentially occur. The FAA's telecom network is run by Harris' Government Communications Systems Division (GCSD), which won a contract in 2002 to serve as the lead integrator in a 15-year, $1.7 billion project to integrate and modernize the FAA's Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI). In addition to Raytheon Technical Services Company, which provides on-site technical services, Harris' FTI team includes BellSouth Corporation (now AT&T), Qwest Communications, SBC Communications (now AT&T), Sprint and Verizon Communications.
- here's the official release
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