Lack Of Cert Requirement Smells... And It's Not The
The Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), AFL-CIO,
the union that represents FAA technical employees who install,
maintain, repair and certify radar, navigation and communication
systems equipment, testified Wednesday before the House Committee
on Transportation & Infrastructure, Subcommittee on Aviation,
to discuss its concerns regarding the FAA's Automatic Dependent
Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B) contract.
In his remarks, PASS President Tom Brantley told lawmakers that
he was especially disturbed by the elimination of the need for FAA
certification of the system.
For decades, all air traffic control systems, subsystems and
services directly affecting the flying public were required to be
certified -- a process in which a certified FAA technician checks
and tests systems or equipment to ensure that the system or
equipment can safely remain in service without negative impact to
the National Airspace System (NAS).
However, shortly after the ADS-B contract was awarded to ITT
Corporation, the FAA made changes to its certification program...
so that only FAA-owned systems could be certified. As ANN reported, ITT is a
leading US defense contractor... as well as the world's largest
supplier of equipment to move and treat water and wastewater.
"We are concerned that the newly awarded ADS-B contract may have
negative consequences on aviation safety," said Brantley. "FAA
employees are the only people with detailed knowledge of the
intricacies associated with NAS systems and operations and are the
only individuals trained to deal specifically with equipment
failures and the complex intricacies associated with such a vast
network of systems and equipment. Private contractors simply lack
the skills, training and knowledge of federal employees."
The FAA intends to perform "service certification" on ADS-B,
which relies upon users -- pilots and contractors -- to tell the
FAA that there is a problem, according to Brantley.
"Basically, the FAA is
doing away with internal quality checks," said Brantley. "PASS is
extremely concerned that the elimination of FAA involvement related
to such an important system places far too much reliance on the
PASS stressed the importance of including FAA employees in the
process, emphasizing that allowing ADS-B to exist as an entirely
vendor-run operation will, at the very least, result in additional
service disruptions and longer delays.
"Placing responsibility for a system as vital to air travel as
ADS-B entirely in the hands of the private sector threatens the
safety of the flying public, especially given the FAA's troubled
history of contract management," said Brantley. "PASS strongly
supports modernization of the NAS, but never in a manner that
compromises the very foundation of safety upon which our current
system is based."