FAA pulls tracking app from two radar centers

The Federal Aviation Administration has hit some turbulence in getting
aircraft-tracking software ready for 2000.


At radar centers serving major airports in Chicago and Dallas, FAA in recent weeks
reverted to an old version of the Automated Radar Terminal System—one that is not
2000-ready.


Complaints from air traffic controllers at Chicago’s O’Hare International
Airport led FAA early this month to pull the plug on the latest ARTS version there. Last
week, air traffic controllers at the Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport also stopped
using the upgrade, Version 6.05, because of problems related to keyboard commands, FAA
officials said.


FAA this summer upgraded ARTS, mainly because of date code concerns, said Don Zochert,
FAA’s Chicago region spokesman. The agency in August installed Version 6.05 of ARTS
at the Terminal Radar Approach Control facility in Elgin, Ill., just west of Chicago.


FAA has upgraded ARTS at all its radar approach centers, including those serving
airports in Denver, New York, Southern California and 14 other locations.


Those centers are continuing to use Version 6.05; FAA only returned to using Version
6.04 in Chicago and Dallas.


In Chicago, “the controllers have raised issues about the software’s
reliability,” Zochert said. “We replaced ARTS 6.05 with the older 6.04 version
so we can address and resolve their issues.”


According to air traffic controllers at O’Hare, the latest ARTS version gave them
false targets, an effect known as ghosting, and erroneous flight information, known as
coasting, said Kurt Granger, president of the National Air Traffic Controllers
Association’s local chapter in Chicago.


FAA will work on the glitches, keeping the newer ARTS version available in Chicago as a
backup if necessary. The agency has set no deadline for when it expects to rehost ARTS
6.05 in Chicago or Dallas.


“We want to get it right,” Zochert said. Once it completes its fixes on
Version 6.05 for Chicago, FAA will not necessarily upgrade ARTS at facilities agencywide,
Zochert said, because it customizes the software for each center.


Granger said pushing FAA to revert to the older ARTS version in Chicago took time.


“I can understand FAA not wanting to spend money on an old system to make it year
2000-compliant,” Granger said. “But I’ve been fighting the battle on the
new system since August.”   

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