FAA DECOMMISSION OF LONG-RANGE, PRIMARY RADAR In the mid-1990s, the FAA's plan to decommission the majority

of its long-range radars was complicated by objections from various groups and organizations such as the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association). It argued that primary radar is necessary for safety because it backs up secondary radar systems in the event that secondary radar should fail. The AOPA also criticized the FAA for decommissioning long range radar outside of the official rule-making process by simply taking away funding for maintenance. This decision was made without consulting the operators of the system (i.e. the controllers). Of main concern to the AOPA at the time were the reported 35,000 aircraft that fly without transponders installed. They also charged that the FAA's internal reasoning to decommission long-range radar was "fatally flawed." A letter to then-Administrator David Hinson was sent to this affect. The FAA finally introduced STARS (Standard Automation Replacement System) in 1999 at approach facilities across the country. This program met resistance similar to proposed modernization attempts in the past: the program incensed the controllers and radar technicians because the FAA did not collaborate with them, despite the fact the program seriously impacted their work/job performance. In October 2000, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the FAA ordered a halt to ongoing systems upgrades because of problems such as airline delays and radar failures. The newspaper characterized the order as a "moratorium on radar maintenance." There was no indication as to how long the "moratorium" would last at the time of publication. At a congressional hearing on air traffic control equipment in March 2001, the FAA said it had worked out differences between management and the controllers/technicians and were preparing to test the outcome of their collaborative efforts in the summer of 2001. The FAA testified at that time that the new equipment does "create technical issues" such as "ghost images" and "target jumping" that they were working to correct. That effort, coupled with the advent of GPS (Global Positioning System) technology, had modernization implications for air traffic control equipment. Technological advancements continue to work towards precision in radar technology. Post 9-11, Congress reviewed the FAA's process of decommissioning the long range (ARSR-4) radars and determined to provide that $15 million "to rehabilitate" the equipment in order to track planes without transponders. In addition, the OIG conducted an audit of the FAA's long range radar program to determine if, in fact, the FAA had met requirements to address "gaps" in radar coverage and to coordinate aircraft surveillance with other agencies.

Mandating tamper-proof transponders on all new planes is a related-issue that has come up since 9-11. Once again, the FAA is encountering strong pushback from interested parties such as the aircraft manufacturer, Boeing. MIT produced a presentation on the technical needs of air traffic control post 9-11 that details areas of incompatibility between DOD and FAA.

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