FAA History Lesson -- November 30

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

”Nov 30, 1992: FAA gave a “cure notice” to IBM concerning its development of the Initial Sector Suite System (ISSS), a part of the Advanced Automation System (AAS). The agency stated that unless the company provided a plan to remedy deficiencies within 10 calendar days, the government would withhold progress payments under the contract. Earlier in November, IBM had stated that, because of software difficulties and other problems, the ISSS would not be ready for FAA acceptance until Sep 1994, thus adding another 14 months to an already delayed timetable. Following the cure notice, IBM submitted to FAA an initial and later a final cure plan. FAA’s own steps to remedy the situation included changes in the project’s management structure and an Apr 1 ban on further changes in user requirements for the ISSS. (See Oct 1, 1991, and Dec 13, 1993.)“

In just a few short years the FAA went from visions of glory to dunning their contractors. For my new readers, the quest to automate air traffic control has a long and disastrous history at the FAA. I like to think it is because of a fundamental flaw in intent. Instead of using technology to assist controllers, they keep trying to make it replace controllers. See if you can detect that subtle difference in the history entry from when the FAA announced the program.

From the FAA Historical Chronology, 1926-1996...

Jul 26, 1985: FAA announced the award of a contract for replacement of the IBM 9020 computers at the nation's 20 air route traffic control centers (ARTCCs) as part of the agency's Advanced Automation Program. IBM won the replacement contract in a competition with Sperry Corp. under a pair of contracts that had been announced on Sept 22, 1983. The new installations were designated the "Host" Computer Systems (HCSs) because of their ability to run the existing 9020 software package with minimum modifications. Using the IBM 3083-BX1 computer as its key element, the Host system would provide greater speed, reliability, and storage capacity. Each installation would consist of two units, one serving as the primary processor and the other providing support and backup. (See Mar 22, 1983, and May 29, 1987.)

In addition to installing the Host systems at the ARTCCs, IBM agreed to supply the systems to teams working on the other major element of the Advanced Automation Program, the Advanced Automation System (AAS). Under a pair of contracts announced on Aug 16, 1984, IBM and Hughes Aircraft Co. were engaged in a competition to produce the best AAS design (see Jul 26, 1988). Among the key elements of AAS were controller work stations, called "sector suites," that would incorporate new display, communications and processing capabilities. AAS would also include new computer hardware and software to bring the air traffic control system to higher levels of automation. Once the full AAS system was operational, FAA planned to begin the integration of en route and terminal radar control services at the ARTCCs, which would be renamed Area Control Facilities (ACFs) and expanded to handle the new functions (see Apr 19, 1993). Among the planned future enhancements to AAS was Automated En Route Air Traffic Control (AERA), which would automatically examine aircraft flight plans to detect and resolve potential conflicts.

(Emphasis added)

Don Brown
November 30, 2007


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