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Collins GPS outage grounds regional flights

Collins Aerospace is coordinating with safety regulators and its equipment clients after a GPS connection outage on its parts resulted in the cancellation of hundreds of flights, especially flights on aircraft operated by US regional carriers.

The US Federal Aviation Administration had few details to share about the groundings on 8 and 9 June primarily caused by the Collins Aerospace GPS-4000S sensor that connects aircraft with GPS satellites. Affected carriers do not expect more delays or cancellations related to the problem as they wait for answers from Collins and the FAA.

A Collins spokeswoman says the company "identified a technical issue" with one or more of its GPS products impacting availability to connect to the network. On 10 June the company says it "determined the root cause and the resolution".

"We are engaging with our customers to ensure continued safe operational capability," she adds.

The FAA on 10 June says carriers in both Europe and North America reported the GPS problem to the agency but carriers did not divert flights due to the anomaly. It published an air traffic advisory on 9 June ordering aircraft receiving GPS connectivity failure to coordinate with the FAA before departing.

"We are working to determine the cause of the problem, which may have resulted from a software update to the aircraft navigation systems," the FAA says in a statement. "The FAA tracks flights on radar in addition to using satellite technology so airborne aircraft are under continuous surveillance by air traffic control."

Bombardier says it is coordinating with Collins after "a large portion" of its CRJ series aircraft was affected by the GPS connectivity failure on its regional aircraft carrying Collins navigation parts.

"We are assessing the situation and our focus is ensuring impact on our customers is as limited as possible," a Bombardier spokeswoman says. "The FAA tracks flights on radar in addition to using satellite technology so airborne aircraft are under continuous surveillance by air traffic control."

Delta cancelled more than 100 flights on 8 and 9 June - primarily Delta Connection regional flights - as a result of the Collins equipment problem, a Delta spokesman says.

American Airlines also says it made "scattered delays and cancellations" during those two days related to the equipment problem, particularly on regional aircraft operated by Mesa Airlines, SkyWest Airlines and PSA Airlines.

"The issue has been resolved, but we continue to work with Rockwell Collins and the FAA," United says.

Hawaiian Airlines cancelled weekend flights among Hawaii's islands on Boeing 717 aircraft because of a GPS outage related to the Collins-built GLU2100 as opposed to technical problems other airlines faced with the 4000S model. Hawaiian has 20 Boeing 717 aircraft in service, according to Cirium's Fleets Analyser.

"The glitch occurred in 14 Boeing 717 aircraft in which new Multi-Mode Receiver units had been installed as part of an FAA mandated upgrade," says a Hawaiian Airlines spokesman of the Collins-built MMR.

This outage comes at an auspicious time for both the FAA and Collins. The FAA is pushing the US aviation sector to comply with a January 2020 deadline requiring all aircraft to install Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast transmitters, known as ADS-B Out, to ensure they can connect with satellites and provide real-time information about flights including velocity.

Collins Aerospace parent United Technologies announced on 9 June it would merge with Raytheon in an all-stock deal which, if approved by regulators, would create the second largest aerospace and defense provider in the US by revenue, behind Boeing.

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