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The GAO discussed the Federal Aviation Administration's (FAA) plans to modernize its air traffic control (ATC) system through the Advanced Automation System (AAS). The GAO noted that AAS, which will cost $3.2 billion, is expected to: (1) enable the consolidation and replacement of en route and terminal ATC facilities; (2) increase controller productivity and system availability; (3) reduce operating costs; (4) save fuel; and (5) automate many of the functions that controllers currently perform. AAS is scheduled to be implemented in steps beginning in 1991.
The GAO also noted that FAA faces a number of technical and operational risks in implementing AAS, including: (1) the complete replacement of ATC hardware; (2) the use of a new computer language; (3) the system's extremely high availability requirements; (4) problems inherent in interfacing with other ATC systems that are still under development; (5) unvalidated system performance models; and (6) uncertainty over the adequacy of the planned controller work station.
In addition, the GAO noted that the FAA cannot be certain that AAS will be cost-effective because it used questionable assumptions in its AAS cost-benefit study, which may have inflated the FAA estimate of savings that will result from AAS implementation.