Share This Page

Congress blamed in air-traffic control system delays

| Thursday, Nov. 29, 2012, 6:58 p.m.

WASHINGTON — Benefits from the planned $42 billion investment in a new air-traffic control system depend on being able to combine and move hundreds of radar rooms that are obsolete or can't accommodate new equipment.

That modernization effort is at risk because lawmakers have blocked several attempts to merge such Federal Aviation Administration facilities, according to agency data compiled by Bloomberg and interviews with former FAA officials.

“You tell a congressman that you're pulling a center out of his or her district, you're going to have a gigantic scream,” said George Donohue, a former FAA associate administrator. “When you talk about consolidating big, expensive, redundant facilities, Congress just won't let it get done.”

The program known as NextGen involves using global-positioning satellite technology to replace radar to track aircraft and giving controllers better communication tools including an email-like link to pilots. The FAA projects NextGen will save airlines $24 billion in fuel, delays and other expenses by 2020 by letting planes fly more direct routes and closer to each other.

The agency has received congressional criticism for delays and cost overruns on some early parts of NextGen, including a new computer system to monitor traffic and serve as a backbone for much of the new technology. The bricks-and-mortar network of more than 500 radar rooms and towers form the low- tech side of the system.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.