Wednesday, October 14, 2009

ITYS #499



I told you so. URET doesn’t have an effective backup.

”My long-time readers know that I have real issues with the system called URET that was used to replace flight progress strips. The backup to URET is flight progress strips.“

”URET doesn’t allow you to “think” non-radar (there is no fix/time displayed) nor does it allow controllers to practice the mechanical skills needed with flight progress strips, i.e. strip marking. Yet, the backup to URET is flight progress strips. “

”If you project this mess forward in time the consequences are even more frightening. As more and more senior controllers retire, there will be fewer and fewer controllers left that have even seen flight progress strips much less know how to use them effectively. “

”To sum it all up simply, the FAA has no viable backup plan. “


From the NASA Aviation Safety Reporting System (edited):

=======================

ACN: 823405

Date : 200902

“The user request evaluation tool (URET) computer system apparently was broken when I started my shift at XC00.”

“URET is used to trial-plan requested routes and altitudes and gives alerts on aircraft that are predicted to get too close. It has never been 100% accurate and cannot be used for separation, controllers are told it is a 'tool' only, and separation is their responsibility.“

“The problem made the conflict alerts in URET inaccurate, with erroneous alerts or no alerts at all on aircraft. Since the alerts could not be disabled, controllers were distracted by the erroneous alerts and were told to simply not use the alert system at all, which is a primary part of URET in regards to air traffic. Without the alerts functioning properly, URET becomes a crippled system which in turn becomes a distraction to controllers working. Allegedly the air traffic system has redundancy, so that when one system fails, another backup system takes its place. However, as apparently the ZMP managers decided there was no backup/replacement system for URET, they made the decision to use the system broken for the day and simply told controllers to ignore the broken part. This caused distractions to the workforce which ultimately led to a degradation of safety within the air traffic system. “

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(Emphasis added)

If you don’t have a viable backup to URET (strips), you are forced into making a bad decision -- using URET even if it is crippled.

This battle has already been lost. It was all but over before I retired, three years ago. We are now simply waiting to discover what the consequences will be. I expect it to be an extremely difficult and costly education.

For new readers, here is a painfully detailed discussion on URET.

Don Brown
October 14, 2009

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