DOT Says FAA Analyzed Separation Data Incorrectly

 - March 11, 2013, 12:10 PM

The U.S. Senate’s Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation and the Subcommittee on Aviation Operations, Safety and Security have asked the Department of Transportation’s Inspector General to look into the rise in the number of losses of ATC separation that began emerging after the FAA’s 2009 update of its operational error reporting protocols. The IG has received a similar request from the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. The IG reported that, while the DOT claimed the rise was due to new reporting vehicles such as the Air Traffic Safety Action Program (ATSAP) for controllers and the Traffic Analysis and Review Program (TARP), which is an automated system to detect losses of separation at air traffic terminal facilities, it found that “the increase in reported errors was linked, in part, to a rise in actual errors rather than [simply] increased reporting.” In one example the IG cited “almost one quarter of the increase was due to the revocation of a separation waiver at the Southern California Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) that led to the reclassification of many routine approach and landings as operational errors.” The DOT also said, “The FAA’s new policies and procedures for collecting, investigating and reporting separation losses have the potential to reduce losses and improve reporting, but their effectiveness is limited by incomplete data and implementation challenges.”