The US Department of Transportation's Inspector General (DOT IG) has highlighted the FAA's troubled Standard Terminal Automation Replacement (STARS) programme as a source of particular cost and schedule concern for the agency's capital spending plans.

In a report released on the status of the FAA's 20 major acquisition programmes, for which Congress has approved more than $2.5 billion in total annually, the DOT's watchdog office says: "The cost and schedule to complete Full STARS remain at risk for primarily two reasons."

The DOT IG says: "STARS is already four years late and is now estimated to cost $600 million over the original estimate of about $1 billion. Delays with STARS caused FAA to take stopgap measures for some facilities," causing the agency to spend $85 million on Lockheed Martin Common ARTS controller displays and radar data processors to replace aging equipment at large air traffic control centres.

"FAA has spent about $660 million on the STARS programme but has only two Early Display Configuration systems in operation, which provide new controller displays but rely on older software," the DOT IG says, noting: "The Early Display Configuration should not be confused with Full Service STARS (Full STARS), which includes both new equipment and a complete replacement of older software."

Although the DOT IG also points out other major FAA programmes such as its proposed GPS-based Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) navigation capability are also in trouble, it reserves its most detailed remarks for the problems the Raytheon-developed STARS programme faces.

"First, testing of STARS continues to identify critical problems (trouble reports)," the DOT IG's office notes in its new report. "Currently, there are 523 open trouble reports and the number of trouble reports deemed ‘critical' has remained relatively constant at about 175 between September 2001 and January 2002."

It points out: "The schedule calls for five additional months of testing, which could result in additional trouble reports. This puts the on-time installation for the first site in November 2002 (Philadelphia) at risk because all critical trouble reports must first be corrected."

STARS' second major problem, says the DOT IG, is that it "is dependent on the new ASR-11 digital radar, which has experienced cost increases and schedule slips of its own".

Source: Flight Daily News