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This Wasn't Exactly a Banner Week for the FAA and TSA

May 1, 2014 at 4:46 PM | by | ()

What is it about the various government agencies charged with overseeing American travel, do you think, and how they're gratingly bad at what they do? We assume there are parts of the federal government where bureaucrats get things done roughly as well (or not) as they would if they were working anywhere else. But hot damn, do the FAA and TSA screw things up occasionally.

The FAA is an agency that is - literally and metaphorically - standing in the way of the future. It's not just that it took them two years to even draft a policy on in-flight electronics, to the point where the FCC had to initiate a formal procedure to ask them what the hell was taking so long. These are people who are so incompetent that they might end up delaying futuristic private spaceflight just because, hey, they're not sure what they think about all that yet. But at least they keep the planes in the air, right?

Not so much, it turns out. Four Southern California airports yesterday were subject to a full ground stop. No flights were allowed to take off from LAX, John Wayne, Bob Hope in Burbank, or Ontario International. Various airports told passengers about the delays over Twitter, and the LAX Twitter feed described the problem as related to "computer issues." But the FAA - per this LAist post - started off refusing to comment. A local news station pushed for more information, and they were told to go to fly.faa.gov - which wasn't giving any useful information either. Eventually the agency issued a statement explaining what happened: "The FAA’s Los Angeles Center air traffic control facility experienced technical issues and stopped accepting additional flights into the airspace." OK Then.

Just counting LAX, at least 27 inbound flights were diverted, 27 were cancelled, and the delays reached over 200 flights. Some 30 planes were kept loaded on the runway, including a couple that were there for two hours. The cascade effects across the rest of the country - because remember, a ground stop means that all incoming flights are held at their departing airports - must have been delightful.

As for TSA, we just can't any more you guys. Two weeks ago the story was that the agency was expanding its behavior profiling program even though a government study had shown it was useless. Last week we learned that TSA's former inspector general had deliberately altered or delayed unfavorable performance reports. Today the Government Accountability Office (GAO) published a report (link here, quick summary here) noting that TSA hasn't even been testing their new scanning machines properly.

Apparently there are a range of drills that they're simply not doing. Then there are other drills that they do, but where they don't collect all the data they're supposed to. Because why would they?

[Photo: KTLA 5]

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