Air Traffic Control:

Remote Radar for Grand Junction

RCED-97-22: Published: Nov 19, 1996. Publicly Released: Nov 19, 1996.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed: (1) whether the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) chose the most cost-effective option for handling radar-based air traffic control activities at the Grand Junction, Colorado, airport; (2) whether the safety and efficiency of the air traffic control system would be compromised by remoting radar data and contracting out tower operations at Grand Junction; and (3) what can be done to improve the FAA process for determining when and where to remote radar data.

GAO found that: (1) it agreed with the FAA determination that remoting the Grand Junction radar signal to a terminal radar approach control (TRACON) facility in Denver is the most cost-effective option for handling radar data from the site; (2) the FAA 20-year projected savings attributable to the remote option should be reduced by about $500,000, from $5.9 million to $5.4 million, since FAA overlooked certain telecommunications costs and did not utilize more realistic staffing scenarios; (3) GAO analysis of the available data disclosed no valid concerns about the safety and efficiency of remoting radar data or contracting out a tower's operation; (4) the FAA process for deciding when and where to remote radar signals was generally sound, but relatively ad hoc; and (5) a formal methodology for making such decisions would have helped FAA to ensure that all relevant factors were properly considered and communicate to the affected communities how its decision was made.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: FAA does not plan to develop any additional guidance solely concerning the remoting of radar data. According to FAA officials, its June 1996 guidance setting out procedures for the consolidation of Terminal Approach Radar Control Centers (TRACONS) will also be followed when considering the options of remoting radar data to an established TRACON facility or building a locally controlled facility.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Transportation should direct the Administrator, FAA, to develop formal guidance and an analytical model for making its remoting decisions. The guidance should outline what costs to include, how those costs should be computed, and what documentation is required to support the analysis. It should also provide for early and continuous involvement of the major stakeholders, especially the affected communities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Transportation


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