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Letter to Senator Boxer Regarding Recent Series of Air Traffic Control Outages in Southern California

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We issued a response to Senator Barbara Boxer's request for us to review a recent series of air traffic control equipment outages in Southern California. We examined equipment failures at Los Angeles Center, as well as problems with a precision landing system at Los Angeles International Airport. We also reviewed problems with a safety system at Los Angeles International Airport for alerting controllers of potential accidents on runways. Our review found that: 1) FAA is taking short term corrective actions regarding the July 18, 2006 power outage at Los Angeles Center, and we recommend that it undertake a program to solve this problem and prevent its reoccurrence at other locations nationwide; 2) Multiple factors contributed to the multiple failures of the instrument landing system at LAX in July and August, and that given FAA's problems identifying the underlying causes of the failures, it must maintain a proactive monitoring and troubleshooting effort on this system, and; 3) The radar-based system designed to provide air traffic controllers with an automatic alert when the system predicts a runway incursion was shut off prior to a July 26, 2006 near collision between two aircraft. Even if the system had been activated on August 14, 2006 it would not have given an alert when an aircraft was struck by a ground vehicle because the incident occurred on a taxiway, which the system doesn't monitor. The system was operational and warned of a close call between two aircraft on the same runway on September 30, 2006. We are also including LAX in our ongoing review of FAA's actions to identify and correct the causes of runway incursions at Boston Logan, Chicago O'Hare, and Philadelphia International Airports.