Sunday, December 04, 2011

Did You Think I Wouldn’t Find Out?

You know the only ATC issue I’m really trying to keep up with these days. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? I do have access to NATCA’s BBS still. And despite the bureaucratic language of the report (a danger of working for the FAA I guess) I can still put “ERAM Failure” together with “IOA” and “canceled”. It took me a little digging to find out IAO stands for “Independent Operational Assessment”. But that’s the neat thing about digging, you’re always finding something new. It seems like a lot of problems are found during an IOA.

For the non-technical, non-controllers out there, the FAA’s lynchpin NextGen program -- ERAM -- suffered some sort of major failure at one of the test facilities (Salt Lake ARTCC.) That was just before Thanksgiving. And in that nobody conducts an “assessment” during a holiday...and I’d think an “assessment” of the this sort takes more than a day or two...I’m guessing -- just guessing mind you -- that the “failure” took place during the “assessment”. Which leads me to guess that the IOA was canceled because of the failure. In other words, ERAM flunked the test so the test was “canceled”.

That’s my best guess. Lets see if controllers are brave enough to confirm it.

Here are a few things to mull over in the meantime. I have a new number to attach to ERAM. I predict it will cost $20+ billion. The FAA says it’s a 2.1 billion dollar program. Based on history, I’m going to guess $21 billion. Billion-dollar software programs attract a lot of attention. If ERAM gets to $10 billion (and it will), they’ll write books about it. What are they going to say about you?

Do you think other people aren’t going to find out? Do you think all this won’t become public? Ask yourself a question: Will the actions you take today withstand public scrutiny tomorrow? When John Q. Public demands answers -- when they ask: “What did they know and when did they know it?” -- will you be able to answer in a forthright manner? The whole truth and nothing but the truth so help you God?

Let me remind you.

”If you don’t learn anything else from me you can take that last point to the bank. I’ve said it a dozen different ways, a dozen different times. A controller’s best interest is in protecting the Public’s best interest. It is a duty you should rank above the FAA and your coworkers. It isn’t always clear and it is rarely easy. But if you’re ever in any doubt about what course to follow -- and you will be -- follow that one. It’s as clear as “Safety Above All”. You’re a public employee, first and foremost. Keep that first and everything else will fall into place.”

Protecting the Public by keeping secrets is the CIA’s job. Controllers do have a national security role to play at times. This isn’t one of them. The only question to ask yourself is: Are you protecting the Public’s interest? Or your own?

Don Brown
December 5, 2011


bill ettu said...

No sooner then QRO had walked in the door at ZLC then ERAM flopped taking down channel A and B, which Lockheed stated could "never" happen. Because ERAM is its own backup system.

ZLC attempted to fall back to an earlier build which also failed. The air traffic chief ask the Air Traffic Manager to fall back to Host. To which the ATM responded No! it's over to EBUS you go. ZLC controllers were forced to work traffic during the busiest time of the year with just EBUS data tags. One has to wonder why ZLC put so much effort into the Host Data Bridge that sends ERAM data to Host, so in the event of such a failure Host has current flight data. QRO said ZLC isn't the place for us, no IAO it's off to ZSE for us.

Having eight additional centers running ERAM by the end of December went out the door with the QRO folks.

Don Brown said...

Thanks for the info, Bill. I appreciate it.

Don Brown