En Route Automation Program Is On Target, Says Director

 - October 8, 2012, 10:45 AM
Fran Hill, Lockheed Martin’s Eram program director, is confident the program will meet its current cost and schedule estimate. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The director of Lockheed Martin’s En route Automation Modernization (Eram) program has said the system’s deployment across the U.S. is on schedule and on budget since the FAA recalculated, or “rebaselined,” its cost and schedule in June last year.

The FAA now says the Eram deployment to 20 air route traffic control centers (ARTCCs) that manage high-altitude traffic will be completed in August 2014, nearly four years late, at an additional cost of $330 million. That would bring the overall program cost to $2.4 billion. However, in an audit report released on September 13, the Department of Transportation inspector general’s office said the FAA has not “fully resolved” critical software problems that have delayed the program. The IG reiterated a Mitre estimate that cost overruns could exceed $500 million.

“A year or two before the rebaselining, Mitre was commissioned by the FAA to look at the program. That was their worst case,” Fran Hill, Lockheed Martin director of en route, terminal and oceanic programs, told AIN. “We are under contract and, given the collaboration that we have in place right now, I don’t see any reason why we’re not going to hold to that $330 million baseline.” Under the agreement negotiated with the FAA after the program was rebaselined, “We have risk associated with our profit if we don’t achieve all the FAA’s objectives,” she said.

Eram, which replaces aging Host computers, is now continuously operating at six ARTCCs—in Salt Lake City, Seattle, Denver, Minneapolis, Albuquerque and Oakland–and has achieved or is close to achieving initial operational capability at three others. The fully operational systems are running Release 3 software, which integrates automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B) aircraft position reports. Release 4 software, not part of the current Eram contract, would add the capabilities of ground-based interval management spacing and airborne reroutes.

In testimony before the House Aviation subcommittee on September 12, DOT IG Calvin Scovel said controllers and technicians at the nine ARTCCs using Eram have identified 900 “high-priority” software issues that need to be addressed. Hill said some 60 percent of software issues “end up being duplicates” across the sites. She said only 6 to 8 percent of reports represent new software problems.

Hill said improved “governance” of the program by the FAA, and better collaboration among all parties, including the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, gives her confidence that Eram will meet its current targets. Her comments echoed those of FAA acting administrator Michael Huerta, who told the House subcommittee that he believes “we’ve turned the corner” on Eram.

Comments

Doug Church's picture

Safety is NATCA’s top priority and we are proud of our collaborative involvement with ERAM, a program that has turned the corner and is now an example of success. Before we became involved, ERAM was over-budget and plagued with problems. But the current administration wisely recognized that real stakeholder involvement was an element essential to ensuring effective air traffic control modernization. The hard work and commitment of NATCA members has helped ERAM get up and running continuously in six facilities. We are optimistic that the goal of full implementation by 2014 will be met.

NextGen will rely on ERAM to operate effectively. That’s just one reason why we are committed to ERAM’s success. We will continue assisting in developing, testing, training and implementing the new equipment and related procedures. We’re very proud to see this progress.

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