On the record: Mixed reactions to Tuesday’s outage

The AP’s Joelle Tessler and Jordan Robertson filed a follow-up story Friday that includes a variety of quotes on the significance of Tuesday’s glitch at the FAA’s flight plan filing center in Georgia. A few excerpts:

“If this (FAA outage) happened at a power plant, I’d be telling them to open up their checkbook and expect to be fined,” said Jason Larsen, who spent five years at the Idaho National Laboratory examining electrical plants’ control systems before he became a security researcher for IOActive Inc.

Doug Church, a spokesman for the National Air Traffic Controllers Association — a union that has been locked in a contract dispute with the FAA since 2006 — argues that the agency has tried to focus on future technology to deflect its lack of diligence in maintaining its current systems. Church pointed to the agency’s lack of a “safety net of redundancy” and its “fix-on-fail” policy, which means waiting for something to break before addressing a problem.

“It’s common. You see it in retail too. It’s the whole ‘don’t fix it if it ain’t broke’ thing,” said Branden Williams, director of a unit of VeriSign Inc., which assesses the security of retailers’ payment systems. “It’s unfortunate because it’s very reactive, and it typically winds up costing you more.”

Sid McGuirk, associate professor and coordinator of the air traffic management program at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla., believes that given the federal budget realities, the FAA has maintained a good balance. It keeps the system running efficiently without compromising safety, said McGuirk, a former air traffic controller and FAA manager. “From time to time, we are going to have a glitch, but it’s a tradeoff,” he said. 
 

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