Washington incident proves need for overhaul

Airlines for America (A4A), the industry trade organisation for the leading US airlines, today commended first responders for their swift action to contain the hazardous materials incident at the Washington Air Route Traffic Control Center in Leesburg, Virginia late on Monday night.

The air traffic control facility which manages traffic in the east coast airspace from Washington, D.C. to New York City halted all flights in the region for several hours on Monday and transferred the remaining airborne flights to other air traffic control facilities.

According to a statement from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), local fire officials directed the FAA to evacuate the Washington Center in Leesburg, VA at about 6:40pm after fumes from construction work penetrated the control room.

“We are very grateful no one was hurt,” said A4A president and CEO Nicholas E. Calio. “This disruption underscores the dilapidated facilities, short staffing and lack of contingency planning that make the case for air traffic control modernisation legislation that is being considered on Capitol Hill. It is an object example of why opponents of modernisation should get their heads out of the sand.

“Despite the $7.4 billion spent during the last 10 years, our antiquated air traffic control facilities do not have the technology to ensure that when disruptions occur, air traffic can be transferred to another facility. Stable funding for facilities and a streamlined procurement system are critical elements of the modernization effort going to the House floor next week.

“…more than 100,000 passengers experienced first-hand the shortcomings of our outdated air traffic control infrastructure,” said Calio. “This should be a wake-up call for Members of Congress who have not committed to voting yes on air traffic control reform, that modernising our system is an important vote that will bring tremendous benefits to the flying and shipping public.”

Following a 2014 incident at the Chicago En Route Centre in Aurora, Illinois, the Department of Transportation Inspector General Report found that the Federal Aviation Administration lacked adequate contingency plans and procedures for transferring ATC operations to other facilities to help restore normal operations.

“Yesterday’s incident clearly demonstrates that bureaucratic hurdles and government red tape continue to stand in the way of progress. Now more than ever, our nation must take action to provide our ATC professionals in the tower with the modern tools, infrastructure and governance they need to keep our national airspace open for business,” said A4A. “Benefits of modernizing the nation’s ATC system will include: enhanced safety, reduced delays, fuel savings, reduced emissions, increased capacity and greater operational efficiency.”

Posted in News Tagged with:

One Response to Washington incident proves need for overhaul

  1. Tom Brusehaver says:

    This is a horrible one sided story.
    The facility was having maintenance, that would be improvements.

    Modernization of the software is happening at a great pace. The STARS system may not have been the best choice, so TAMR was implemented instead, as a compromise. The next system is being designed and spec’d out today.

    Moving to a not for profit external corporation can only fund improvements be increasing fee’s, which translates into higher ticket prices.