Air Traffic Control:

Information Concerning Equipment Outages at Two Kansas City Area Facilities

RCED-98-256R: Published: Aug 14, 1998. Publicly Released: Aug 19, 1998.

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John H. Anderson, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the reliability of the equipment at two Kansas City area air traffic control (ATC) facilities and the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) ability to safely direct air traffic in this area, focusing on: (1) the impact the equipment's outages had on the safety of the ATC system and on airline operations; (2) identifying procedures to help ensure aviation safety during equipment outages; (3) the extent to which the equipment at the Kansas City facilities has met FAA's availability requirements; (4) comparing the outage rates of equipment at those facilities to the rates at other facilities; and (5) the actions FAA is taking to address equipment outages.

GAO noted that: (1) GAO found that the 18 outages at the two Kansas City facilities, which occurred from December 1997 through June 1998, were caused by various factors, such as defective equipment, human error, and weather; (2) the outages did not result in any reports of violations to FAA's safety standards; however, they delayed flights, causing airlines to incur additional costs and inconveniencing passengers; (3) as for the equipment at those two facilities, the percentage of time that it was operating satisfactorily (available) compared favorably to the national average; (4) with respect to outage rates, the equipment at the en route center experienced fewer outages than the national average, while the equipment at the tower/terminal facility had more outages; and (5) as a result of these outages, FAA has taken several actions, including replacing defective equipment, reconfiguring the en route center's power system to reduce the potential for a catastrophic equipment failure, and conducting a special inspection of the equipment at the tower/terminal facility.