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Safety Recommendation Details

Safety Recommendation A-09-112
Details
Synopsis: On January 15, 2009, about 1527 eastern standard time, US Airways flight 1549, an Airbus A320-214, registration N106US, ingested birds into both engines, lost engine thrust, and landed in the Hudson River following a takeoff from LaGuardia Airport (LGA), New York City, New York. The 150 passengers and 5 crewmembers aboard evacuated the aircraft successfully. One flight attendant and four passengers received serious injuries, and 95 passengers received minor injuries. The scheduled domestic passenger flight, operating under the provisions of 14 Code of Federal Regulations Part 121, was en route to Charlotte Douglas International Airport in Charlotte, North Carolina. An instrument flight rules flight plan was filed, and visual conditions prevailed.
Recommendation: TO THE FEDERAL AVIATION ADMINISTRATION: Modify Federal Aviation Administration radar data processing systems so that air traffic controllers can instruct the systems to process the discrete transponder code of an aircraft experiencing an emergency as if it were an emergency transponder code.
Original recommendation transmittal letter: PDF
Overall Status: Closed - Acceptable Action
Mode: Aviation
Location: Weehawken, NJ, United States
Is Reiterated: No
Is Hazmat: No
Is NPRM: No
Accident #: DCA09MA026
Accident Reports: Loss of Thrust in Both Engines, US Airways Flight 1549 Airbus Industrie A320-214, N106US
Report #: AAR-10-03
Accident Date: 1/15/2009
Issue Date: 10/7/2009
Date Closed: 11/17/2014
Addressee(s) and Addressee Status: FAA (Closed - Acceptable Action)
Keyword(s): Maintenance, Transponder

Safety Recommendation History
From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 11/17/2014
Response: This recommendation was intended to address five radar data processing systems: • Common Automated Radar Terminal System (CARTS) • Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) • Microprocessor Enroute Automated Radar Tracking System (Micro-EARTS) • En Route Automation and Modernization (ERAM) system • Ocean 21 We note that you have completed the recommended software changes to CARTS, STARS, and Micro-EARTS. In addition, we understand that you reviewed the procedures and automation features associated with the remaining two systems. In an emergency, ERAM enables controllers to use a free text data block that can be forwarded to any other controller in the facility or adjacent facilities. If a flight enters a sector without a handoff, ERAM forces the creation of a data block. At centers that have the Ocean 21 system, controllers manually enter an ICAO Emergency message at the Message Review/Composition/Correct window, causing the emergency Special Condition Code to flash on the controller display. These procedural and automation features in both ERAM and Ocean 21 address the safety concern that prompted the issuance of this recommendation, and implementation of the software changes to CARTS, STARS, and Micro-EARTS completes the recommended action. Accordingly, Safety Recommendation A-09-112 is classified CLOSED—ACCEPTABLE ACTION.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 9/12/2014
Response: -From Michael P. Huerta, Administrator: The Micro-EARTS (Microprocessor Enroute Automated Radar Tracking System) Software Version 14.01.0 contains the air traffic controller-initiated emergency functionality, and was released nationally in March 2014. Micro-EARTS can now process the discrete transponder code of an aircraft experiencing an emergency as if it were an emergency transponder code. As a result, this system will now more readily indicate to the controller if the aircraft is experiencing an emergency. This change completes the modification to all the radar data processing systems the recommendation requires. I believe that we have effectively addressed this safety recommendation and consider our actions complete.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 10/29/2013
Response: We are encouraged to learn that controllers working with the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System have the ability to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes and that the capabilities of the En Route Automation and Modernization system were found to be adequate for coordinating emergency conditions. We look forward to reviewing additional updates regarding the FAA’s progress to modify its radar data processing systems so that air traffic controllers can instruct all radar systems to process the discrete transponder code, as recommended. Pending completion of these efforts, Safety Recommendation A-09-112 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 7/18/2013
Response: -From Michael P. Huerta, Administrator: In our letter dated September 6, 2010, we informed the Board of the System Engineering Analysis Report (SEAR) to assess the impact and cost and benefit of the proposed change to En Route Automation and Modernization (ERAM) system. The SEAR has been completed and revealed that the cost of implementing the Radar Data Processing (RDP) system change to ERAM could exceed $1.5 million. The FAA does not support implementing this change due to cost. However, an operational analysis was also conducted to examine how emergency conditions are currently coordinated and how controllers effectively use the free text area of the data block to record and coordinate emergency status. Data entered into the free text data block is displayed to anyone with a data block and controllers can forward the data block to any other displays within the facility or adjacent facilities via intrafacility/interfacility automation. Additionally, ERAM automatically forces a data block if a flight enters a sector without a handoff. Based upon the operational analysis, we find that the capabilities of ERAM are adequate for coordinating emergency conditions. We also note that the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) has the capability to display the emergency code of an aircraft in distress and the controller working with the STARS system has the ability to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes. The SEAR revealed that the cost for implementing this RDP system change to the Microprocessor Enroute Automated Radar Tracking System (Mi.croEARTS) would be relatively small, estimated below $100,000. However, operational analysis to determine how emergencies are currently coordinated at MicroEARTS sites is not complete. Upon completion of the operational analysis, we will submit both the cost estimate and measures required for the operational change to management for a decision. We anticipate completing all required work by January 2014. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress and provide an updated response to this recommendation by August 2014.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 11/6/2012
Response: The NTSB notes the efforts taken to date to increase the functionality of the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System (STARS) capability to display the emergency code of an aircraft in distress (emergency, lost communication, or hijack), which will notify every air traffic controller within a facility of the situation. This improved functionality allows controllers using STARS to be notified of an aircraft in distress regardless of which controller is responsible for that aircraft. However, neither your current letter nor previous correspondence related to this safety recommendation verifies that a controller working with the STARS system has the ability to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes. We also note that (1) the Common Automated Radar Terminal System (CARTS) software functionality to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes was made available with the national release of CARTS software R36a on February 29, 2012, and (2) the FAA expects that, in the future, all CARTS facilities will have this functionality, which will add a visual indicator to the aircraft data blocks displayed at every radar position, including air traffic control tower displays. We further note the FAA’s initiative to address the en route and oceanic radar data processing systems via a System Engineering Analysis Report 525 for the Host Computer System, the En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM) System, the Ocean 21 System, and the Microprocessor En Route Automated Radar Tracking System (Micro-EARTS). The Host Computer System, to be replaced by ERAM, will not be in use beyond the year 2013; accordingly, the only changes being made to the Host System are those required to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization 2012 international standards for flight plans. Given this information, pending verification that STARS is able to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes and completion of the FAA’s actions to modify its radar data processing systems so that air traffic controllers can instruct all radar systems to process the discrete transponder code of an aircraft experiencing an emergency as if that code were an emergency transponder code, Safety Recommendation A-09-112 remains classified OPEN—ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 8/3/2012
Response: -From Michael P. Huerta, Acting Administrator: The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) previously reported that the Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System currently has the capability to display the emergency code of an aircraft in distress (i.e., emergency, lost communication, or hijack) that will notify every controller within the facility of the situation. The Common Automated Radar Terminal System (CARTS) software functionality to process discrete beacon codes as emergency codes was made available with the national release of CARTS software R36a on February 29, 2012. All CARTS facilities will have this functionality, and the software will add a visual indicator to the aircraft data blocks that are displayed at every radar position, including air traffic control tower displays. In order to address the En Route and Oceanic radar data processing systems, a System Engineering Analysis Report (SEAR) 525 was opened for HOST, En Route Automation Modernization (ERAM), Ocean 21, and Micro-En Route Automated Radar Tracking System (Micro-EARTS). Analysis was conducted by the Domain Enhancement Requirements Group. The requirement for this safety recommendation was validated and submitted to the En Route and Oceanic Requirements Board that concurred with the SEAR 525, which was placed for prioritization on the unfunded list. Automation modification to ERAM has been validated and is planned for a phased approach that will begin after completion of ERAM deployment at all domestic Air Route Traffic Control Centers in late 2013. Since HOST will not be in use beyond the year 2013, the only changes being made to the operating system are those required to comply with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 2012 international standards for flight plans. The software change in this safety recommendation is not cost-beneficial and will not be made in HOST. An automation solution has been identified for the Micro-EARTS radar data processing system that emulates the recommended functionality currently present in CARTS. This capability is planned for deployment by the end of year 2012. Ocean 21 controllers currently are able to manually enter an ICAO Emergency message at the Message Review/Composition/Correct window, which will cause the emergency Special Condition Code to flash on the controller display. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA's progress and provide an updated response to this recommendation by January 2013.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 2/14/2011
Response: The NTSB notes that, in addition to the FAA’s plan to improve the Common Automated Radar Terminal System, it is assessing the impact, cost, and benefit of the proposed changes to En Route Automation Modernization system, Ocean21, and Micro-EARTS for the En Route and Oceanic domain radar data processing systems. Pending our review of the FAA’s assessment and plan to address the radar data processing systems used by ARTCC and Micro-EARTS facilities, Safety Recommendation A-09-112 remains classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 9/6/2010
Response: - From J. Randolph Babbit, Administator: In our letter dated December 11, 2009, we informed the Board of the anticipated changes to The Common Automated Radar Terminal System and that we would provide a response to the Board by September 2010. The Board noted “that this recommendation also applies to the radar data processing systems used by Air Route Traffic Control Centers and Micro-EARTS facilities, as situations similar to this accident can occur in any radar facility.” In response, a System Engineering Analysis Report (SEAR) has been submitted which initiates the process of assessing impact and cost and benefit of the proposed change to En Route Automation Modernization system, Ocean21, and Micro-EARTS for the En Route and Oceanic domain radar data processing systems. We will make a determination of the feasibility of implementing this safety recommendation pending the outcome of the SEAR. I will keep the Board informed of the FAA’s progress on this safety recommendation and will inform the Board of our decision by December 2010.

From: NTSB
To: FAA
Date: 4/2/2010
Response: The NTSB is pleased that the FAA has increased the functionality of its Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System so that controllers are notified of aircraft in distress and that similar improvements, approved for the FAA’s Common Automated Radar Terminal System, are scheduled to be implemented in spring 2010. Although the FAA’s actions are responsive, the NTSB points out that this recommendation also applies to the radar data processing systems used by Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC) and Micro EARTS facilities, as situations similar to this accident can occur in any radar facility. Accordingly, pending our review of the FAA’s actions to address the radar data processing systems used by ARTCC and Micro-EARTS facilities, Safety Recommendation A-09-112 is classified OPEN -- ACCEPTABLE RESPONSE.

From: FAA
To: NTSB
Date: 12/11/2009
Response: -From J. Randolph Babbitt, Administrator: The Standard Terminal Automation Replacement System currently has the capability to display emergency symbology of an aircraft in distress (emergency, lost communication, or hijack) that will notify every controller within the facility of the situation. The controller makes a keyboard entry and slews to the appropriate aircraft in distress. Once this is done, a visual indication is added to the aircraft data block and is displayed at every radar position, including Air Traffic Control Tower radar displays. The Common Automated Radar Terminal System (CARTS) does not currently have this functionality. A National Change Proposal has been submitted and approved. The implementation of this capability is scheduled for Revision 36 of the CARTS baseline which is due for national release in spring 2010. I will update the board on the implementation of this CARTS functionality by September 30, 2010.