Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Air Traffic Meltdown

It isn't showing up clearly yet on those increasingly sluggish, supposedly real-time sites like FlightStats.com, but air traffic is snarling nationally as the evening crush approaches.

CNN has heads-up reporting on the developing mess. The F.A.A.'s inexcusably aged, badly maintained technology is responsible. This is just one sign of things to come, I fear.

The usual advice: Check ahead before going to the airport. If you're flying, bring snacks. You could be stuck on a tarmac for a while.

And by the way, ignore any news outlets that give you the lame advice to consult the F.A.A. flight delay information page at www.faa.gov! That site hasn't functioned in over a year. The F.A.A. -- which is run, incidentally, by political appointees whose background is mostly in interstate-trucking regulation -- can't get the planes up in the air; you expect them to have a useful public information site?

Update: The F.A.A. has sent out a statement that's as vapid as it gets. The malfunctioning computer, near Atlanta, is forcing pilots to file fight-plans manually. (Remember, there are about 5,000 airplanes in flight at any given time during the day). "Airplanes are safe and controllers can see aircraft," the F.A.A. says. "They are simply inputting flight plans manually, which takes more time than an electronic transfer."

(You betcha it does. It also opens up great opportunity for mistakes.)

The F.A.A. says, "We are working to correct this issue ..."

Issue! Note that they don't even have the simple good sense to call it a "problem."

And the F.A.A. says, "You can see real time which airports are being affected at www.fly.faa.gov"

No, you cannot. As I said, that site has been inoperative for over a year. Must be some "issue" involved.



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