FAA slows down display system deployment

Who's seeing STARS

Airports now using it:

Albany, N.Y.

Albuquerque, N.M.

Birmingham, Ala.


Bradley, Mass.


Des Moines, Iowa


El Paso, Texas

Las Vegas

Memphis, Tenn.



Omaha, Neb.


Portland, Ore.

Providence, R.I.

San Antonio

Syracuse, N.Y.

Airports slated to get it this year:

Buffalo, N.Y.

Charlotte, N.C.


Columbus, Ohio

Daytona Beach, Fla.

Kansas City, Mo.

Nashville, Tenn.

Oklahoma City

Raleigh, N.C.

Rochester, N.Y.

Salt Lake City


Tucson, Ariz.

The Federal Aviation Administration over the next three years will implement its new air traffic control displays at 50 airports with seriously outdated systems.

But deployment of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System at 26 other airports set to receive STARS under FAA's original rollout plan is on hold. Limiting the STARS deployment will curtail costs and buy time for upgrades, FAA spokeswoman Rebecca Trexler said.

STARS, built for FAA by Raytheon Co., is an open-architecture system that combines data from up to 16 radar systems to create a single view of aircraft and weather on high-resolution color displays.

FAA's Joint Resources Council, made up of top officials across the agency, approved $1.4 billion for rollout to what it called the Phase 1 group. Nineteen sites slated to get STARS in this initial phase already have the system online; installations at the remaining 31 will be finished by the end of 2007.

To improve cost controls, the council also required that FAA make all future STARS purchases using firm fixed-price contracts instead of the cost-plus agreements it has been using.

The General Accounting Office and the Transportation Department inspector general last fall urged FAA to compile more realistic cost estimates and analyses for the STARS program so it could decide how to proceed with the rollout. The IG found estimated costs have swelled from $940 million to $1.9 billion, and deployment is seven years off schedule.

No overnight changes

'FAA is making improvements at controlling their costs. They are definitely taking steps to improve overall management of the program,' said David Dobbs, assistant Transportation IG for aviation. 'But you can't make colossal changes overnight because it's a big program.'

After receiving the GAO and IG reports, Congress clipped funding for the STARS rollout. Under the 2004 omnibus spending bill, FAA can spend fiscal 2004 and 2005 funds to replace only the oldest air traffic systems, which were installed in the 1970s, with STARS.

FAA cannot replace newer systems in operation at large airports until the Transportation IG validates FAA's updated cost estimates.

'The progress of our review is dependent upon how FAA progresses in their analyses and when they can provide data for us to validate and review as the law says,' Dobbs said.

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.


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