As you might have heard, Chicago O’Hare, the busiest airport in the world, was brought
to a halt Friday along with Midway Airport, due to an act of employee sabotage at a
control center. Problems were felt at airports from coast to coast.
As of Monday, more than 3,500 flights in total had been cancelled, affecting hundreds of thousands of passengers.
Workers will need two weeks to restore operations at the air traffic control center, authorities said on Sunday.
People are asking: What kind of world-class system do we have where just one person can shutdown flights all over the country, and it takes weeks to fix?
To get a sense of the misery that day, someone filmed the customer service line to
rebook for one airline at one terminal in O’Hare.
Lined up for all eternity at Chicago O’Hare – 9/26/2014
The clip doesn’t include all the passengers attempting to rebook online or over the phone, or who just gave up and went back home or to a hotel.
Where’s The Workable Backup Plan?
With the airline industry overselling flights already, there is zero slack in the system.
When unanticipated events occur, airline operations begin to unravel.
Most planes now fly completely full. While this has helped airlines increase profitability, the consequence of inflexible
operations with little margin for error means when anything goes wrong it takes days
to get it all back on track.
|A screen shot from FlightAware shows airline traffic at 9:20 a.m. Friday over the United States, with a “hole” over the region around Chicago, after hundreds of flights were canceled at Chicago’s two main airports. (FlightAware, The Associated Press)
From charging for bags, to eliminating meals, to insufficient seat space, to always full planes, and long waits to recover from delays, the airline industry has set up an unacceptable situation.
“It shows the need for live testing of emergency plans by airlines, airports and
air-traffic control, said FlyersRights president, Paul Hudson. “Chicago is a choke
point and when disrupted the effects are national,” he said.
Should We Be Checking All FAA Facilities?
This event demonstrated the vulnerability of our system. Considering the government
has poured billions into Homeland Secuirty, it shows some FAA facilities are unprepared
for an unplanned shutdown or direct attack.
Should contractors at air-traffic control acilities be banned?
Aircraft monitoring is a critical operation and should not be compromised by contract maintenance employees. Air traffic controllers are highly screened, take annual
psychiatric and medical evaluations.
Back in 1995, the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure “http://r20.rs6.net/tn.jsp?e=001EnRv6GN7rOSh1b2WfWUU7fxkv3hz_WbyqyjPCI8Gyefcxoi0iL81I9OigmIItjU9eE9kz-968Br0gLPvc4TBA-fCaQ7MI-ueyiyuf3lBw_930i_B6CffjZfFrmNXGzhksv0GF2pPyknUgR4eDREgjrIBSMnHcTGt8W60w0L2FOBdd5Q4r94BRQ==” linktype=”1″ shape=”rect” style=”color: blue;” target=”_blank” track=”on”>recommended geographically separated redundant systems for FAA
control centers, in response to compter outtages at the same Aurora, IL air-traffic
In 1998, the first paragraph of a GAO investigation stated
: “Failure to adequately
protect these systems, as well as the facilities that house them, could cause nationwide disruption of air traffic or even loss of life due to collisions.”
In the 16 years since that report was issued, the FAA has not developed a single site
back-up control center that could be quickly activated in the event a saboteur, or
terrorists, bring a control facility down.
Instead, the plan is to add work to, at times, already over-burdened air traffic control facilities, reports Chicago’s ABC7 news.
FlyersRights’ proposed Passenger Bill of Rights
calls for airlines to maintain a ready
reserve of equipment and flight crews in times of air transport intruption due to stormy weather, airport closures, severe congestion and airport closures.