A top official with the largest air traffic controllers union says live testing of the US FAA's en route automation modernisation (ERAM) programme should be halted until "known issues" are fixed.

Developed by Lockheed Martin, ERAM is designed to boost traffic flow by processing data from more radars and allowing controllers to track 1,900 aircraft at a time instead of the current 1,100 limitation. One of the first systems being tested with live traffic is the FAA's Salt Lake City Air Route Traffic Control Centre (ARTCC).

Speaking at a House appropriations subcommittee meeting on 18 March, National Air Traffic Controllers Association executive vice president Patricia Gilbert said there are "several critical problems" that remain unfixed with ERAM, and that there are a "high number of workarounds" being used to deal with the less critical glitches.

"These issues represent a significant threat to the safety of the [national airspace system]," says Gilbert, "and we believe that live testing should be halted until the known issues are addressed."

Gilbert says the FAA has been "pushing forward with live testing in an effort to adhere to a timeline for implementation".

Despite what NATCA calls a flawed beginning to the programme eight years ago with "no input from users with front-line knowledge" of the air traffic control system, Gilbert credits FAA administrator Randy Babbitt for "reaching out" to for collaboration "at this late stage of the process".

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news