For years, the Federal Aviation Administration has been working on modernizing the computer systems that keep our skies safe.
Many of these systems have been in operation for over 30 years, and while the old “it it ain’t broken, don’t fix it” saying may apply to a lot of stuff, it isn’t really applicable to air traffic control.
One of the new systems being tested by the FAA is actually live in Salt Lake City. The “En Route Automation” computer system provides better flight management, and allows flight controllers to handle more aircraft, in a wider range than the current systems.
Sadly, the system is not entirely free of glitches, as a controller at Salt Lake City airport encountered last weekend. When monitoring a flight on its way to Texas, the screen suddenly changed the plane to one that had just landed.
The new system was immediately taken offline, and all planes were told to increase their distances between each other while the backup air traffic control computers were brought online.
The glitch has been identified and a fix will be applied. Obviously, a new system is needed to reduce delays in the sky, but if basic things like aircraft identification do not work correctly, there may be quite a bit of work necessary before the new system goes nationwide.