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Thu, Oct 18, 2007

PASS President Finds Much To Fault In FAA's ADS-B Deal

Lack Of Cert Requirement Smells... And It's Not The Wastewater

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 contractor."

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."

FMI: www.passnational.org, www.faa.gov, www.itt.com

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