The Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) Air Traffic Organization (ATO) is responsible for maintaining approximately 40,000 pieces of air traffic control equipment, such as radars, navigation beacons, communication systems, and instrument landing systems that are essential to the safe operation of the national airspace system (NAS). Currently, ATO engineers and technicians conduct routine maintenance, periodic inspections, and performance checks on air traffic control equipment to ensure that it functions properly. Recently, ATO identified another process called reliability centered maintenance (RCM) that it plans to add to the other methods it uses to maintain the equipment. RCM is a data-driven, analytical process used to determine the most value-added maintenance requirements that are needed to keep equipment functioning properly. RCM processes are used by federal and private organizations because they reduce unnecessary maintenance. ATO believes that RCM's data-driven analyses for identifying maintenance needs, combined with the equipment manufacturers' maintenance recommendations and engineers' knowledge of the air traffic control equipment, will enhance the ways that ATO maintains the equipment. Senate Report 109-109, which accompanied the Fiscal Year 2006 Appropriations Act for the Department of Transportation, asked us to analyze FAA's plans to develop an RCM process and the impact of these plans. Since FAA is just beginning to define its approach to RCM, we could not address the specific request. However, as agreed with Congressional offices, we are reporting on (1) what RCM is and where it is being used and (2) the status of ATO's plan for developing and implementing an RCM process for maintaining air traffic control equipment.
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