I was fortunate not to be flying through or to Chicago over the past several days. And I’m certainly not an expert on the situation. So I’m not going to try to speculate on the man who did it, who is presumed to have been trying to commit suicide and in the process brought down a chunk of the nation’s air traffic control system. And I’m not an expert in the technology or processes involved.
The way this all unfolded was surprising, and I do have some non-expert thoughts.
- Whatever situation that led to the presumed suicide attempt which touched this off is, no doubt, tragic.
- And yet I am grateful that the person attempting suicide wasn’t a Muslim. I can only imagine how that one detail would have changed the national response to things, and not for the better.
- It’s striking that one act could take out so much of air traffic control, call me naïve but I would have expected better redundancy.
- The only redundancy seems to be the employees in adjacent centers that border the ZAU airspace; Cleveland Center, Indianapolis Center, Kansas City Center, and Minneapolis Center. And the folks in nearby Terminal Radar Approach (TRACON) centers. Apparently hand-offs that were automated are now manual using handwritten flight plans.
- I do have to give the system credit for handling what it has safely.
There’s a lot wrong with ATC, but safety isn’t really one of those things.
Lots of employees working incredibly hard during a tremendously challenging situation — but one that I’m surprised is as challenging as it has been. With hundreds of flights still being cancelled days later, this episode reveals a huge hole in the way that our nation’s air traffic system functions.
The question is whether anyone will do anything about it. And since this wasn’t terrorism, I’d take a wild guess the answer is no at least in the near-term.
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