FAA IT Systems: Snafu

In the dog-bites-man department, the computer system the Federal Aviation Administration relies on to track flight plans is tottering:

Stratfor, along with many other industry watchers, is very concerned about the flight-plan system and evidence that the system is wearing out.

“Regardless of what caused the Aug. 26 [National Airspace Data Interchange Network] crash, [there] is a monumental challenge the event underscores. Here an archaic system that had survived nearly seven years of 9/11-inspired overhauls went down, dumping its entire workload on one other switch. The NADIN system had already been partially upgraded with systems from Lockheed Martin and is slated to be replaced altogether with the FAA’s much-hyped NextGen Air Traffic Control system. But the lack of redundancy and dynamism demonstrated again by the latest NADIN crash makes a cyberattack against critical U.S. infrastructure all the more feasible. And the cost of comprehensively upgrading these systems would be an enormous financial investment, far more than we have seen so far in the years following 9/11.”

Why, oh why, does the feds’ civilian IT infrastructure suck so badly?

Hold On To Your Lunch

Opinions varied, especially among the passengers, but the approach to Hong Kong’s old Kai Tak airport had to be the coolest anywhere because it featured a low-altitude turn to final that occurred just above the homes and businesses of Kowloon. I was lucky enough to take that ride once, in a UAL 747, and it beat any roller coaster. With Kai Tak’s passing the approach lives on only in flight simulations. Fortunately, there’s no shortage of people who want to try to re-create it. Rock on, dudes.

Happy Landings

It’s become somewhat fashionable for college football teams to commission parachute jumpers to drop on their stadium and deliver the game ball. Unfortunately, some of the jumpers have all the smarts of people who’ve landed on their heads a few times.

I was witness to one of two incidents over the weekend that stemmed from this trend, when a team of two jumpers descended on the wrong stadium:

At least that guy landed properly. The other mishap happened at the University of Cincinnati. The form of the jumper there left much to be desired:

It doesn’t help that the quality of the football being played locally isn’t very high.

Texting a Flight Down

An air-traffic controller used a cell phone’s text-messaging features last week to talk an airplane down. Not in the movie sense of having to teach someone to fly in 30 minutes or less, but as a backup to talk to a real pilot who had no other way to communicate after his plane’s electrical system failed. Just shows that today’s communications technology can find uses its designers never dreamed of.