Air Traffic Control:

Efforts to Modernize Oceanic System Delayed

IMTEC-91-2: Published: Jan 16, 1991. Publicly Released: Jan 16, 1991.

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GAO reviewed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) efforts to provide automation support to improve oceanic air traffic control.

GAO found that: (1) air traffic control services in oceanic areas not under radar surveillance have not changed significantly since 1950; (2) oceanic air traffic controllers lacked a modern automated system and manually updated flight progress based on periodic radio reports; (3) the labor-intensive manual process required controllers to maintain large distances between aircraft; (4) an automated system could facilitate a more efficient use of airspace, resulting in shorter flights and fuel savings; (5) FAA designed the Oceanic Display and Planning System (ODAPS) to provide an automated display of aircraft locations based on periodic radio reports, but ODAPS would not change the current pilot reporting communications procedures or permit a reduction in aircraft separation standards; (6) ODAPS experienced cost increases, was 3 years behind schedule, and was not fully operational; and (7) the FAA long-term Automatic Dependent Surveillance (ADS) project plan to use satellites to provide position information on a real-time basis was dependent upon ODAPS success.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department concurred with the recommendation and stated that a management evaluation of ODAPS was conducted and identified deficiencies in the areas of requirements definition, program management, and contractor oversight. The evaluation team's report concluded that with appropriate management oversight and resource allocation, ODAPS is the best approach.

    Recommendation: Because of the many problems experienced in implementing automated support for oceanic air traffic control, the Administrator, FAA, should evaluate the feasibility of successfully developing and deploying ODAPS. This evaluation should include an assessment of the likelihood that FAA will receive a system meeting requirements within reasonable costs, and consider whether other automation alternatives could better provide automated support to the oceanic environment.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The Department concurred with the recommendation and stated that, based on the internal management evaluation, ODAPS was a suitable target platform for developing a modern satellite-based oceanic system.

    Recommendation: The Administrator, FAA, should reassess the current FAA strategy of using ODAPS as a baseline for developing a modern, satellite-based oceanic air traffic control system.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation: Federal Aviation Administration


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