FAA, Union Dispute Safety Concerns
Another computer problem has resulted in some tense moments in
US skies... and delays to dozens of flights on the ground. At least
265 flights along the East Coast were affected this week, after a
computer glitch cut off communications at Boston Air Route Traffic
The snag hit Boston Center at about 1800 local time Wednesday
night, reports The Boston Globe, and lasted about 45 minutes.
Controllers had to shut down and reboot a computer system used to
track flight routes; while that occurred, controllers resorted to
entering flight info manually, and needed to call other air traffic
centers to obtain aircraft information for flights entering New
FAA spokesman Jim Peters said the problem was an inconvenience,
but didn't compromise safety... a contention disputed by the
National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the union
representing controllers in a bitter dispute with the agency over a
"This was, in every possible sense, a dangerously unsafe and
chaotic situation," said Kevin Bianchi, Boston Center’s NATCA
facility representative. "Controllers were in essence working blind
and, in many cases, actually had to question pilots to determine
their location and routes of flight. Controllers were required to
use a secondary backup system to safely track aircraft."
The union also disputes the timeframe quoted by the FAA, saying
the situation lasted over an hour. In some cases, NATCA claims,
flights in the air headed toward Boston Center’s airspace
were barred from entering and had to be put into holding
patterns... further complicating operations at FAA facilities
adjacent to Boston.
Peters admits the problem is something of a mystery. Operators
feel the problem lies in the software used by the computer system
that failed, but they also sent a data-recording device to an FAA
lab for analysis.
"This is an unusual event for Boston Center, and we have not
seen this kind of a problem at any of our other centers," Peters