Air Traffic Control:

Efforts to Expand the New York Terminal Area Automation System

IMTEC-88-29: Published: Jul 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Jul 29, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) the status of the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) actions to enhance computer capability to meet current and future requirements at its New York Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) facility; and (2) related contract management problems.

GAO found that: (1) although FAA awarded a contract for $45.6 million to expand the existing automated radar terminal system, as of June 1988, the estimated cost for the expansion ranged from $76.4 to $77 million; (2) FAA determined that the program was behind schedule and directed the contractor to implement specific segments of each stage into a new interim upgrade; (3) contract management problems, hardware development difficulties, and misunderstandings between FAA and the contractor resulted in cost increases and schedule delays; (4) FAA began to use 37 new displays in May 1988, but could not fully operate the interim upgrade due to unexpected problems in the revised software; (5) the TRACON system used all eight processors during heavy traffic periods, leaving no backup processor; (6) since FAA decided to implement the interim upgrade capacity in December 1988 without full testing, any problems uncovered during operation could result in additional delays and potentially more costly and disruptive retrofits; and (7) FAA plans to install required Mode C intruder altitude transponders in TRACON in early 1990, after implementation of the second stage of the contract. GAO believes that FAA needs to consider: (1) whether it has adequate alternative plans to handle peak traffic; (2) the effect of using its backup computer and whether a backup was still warranted; and (3) whether continuing contract problems require the need to revise its contract management practices.

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