Delta decided against using ‘fairly old’ backup system during FAA outage


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Delta Air Lines has a backup for the federal aviation safety system that failed this week, but the airline decided not to use it, CEO Ed Bastian said Friday.

Bastian described the Delta’s secondary system as “fairly old backup technology” with the notices known as NOTAMs distributed by the Federal Aviation Administration to warn pilots of obstacles, closures, and other information.Delta’s backup system collects data from the NOTAM database.

“We probably had a slightly better chance of flying during this hiatus compared to anyone else,” Bastian told reporters on a conference call.“But out of deference to the FAA and to make sure we gave them the ability to make decisions, we didn’t use that backup system.”

The FAA ultimately halted all domestic flights for more than an hour during the outage, during which time Delta (DAL) was unable to launch departures.

Bastian said he hopes the outage and massive disruption to air traffic is “a call to action among our political leaders” to invest in FAA technology.

“I think this is a crystal clear example of the challenge the FAA has faced when you have legacy systems that aren’t as resilient as they should be,” he said.“You have tools and technologies that are somewhat outdated and staffing — not where they need to be.”

Bastian reiterated a call from some aviation voices to change the budgeting and funding method for the FAA — specifically, he said, to “get them off the kind of annual funding that it seems like they’re going through and are embroiled in political negotiations.”

Like most other federal government weapons, the FAA’s priorities can change depending on what Congress funds, closing all but the most essential services during a government shutdown.Congress has the opportunity to consider such changes when it considers major aviation legislation this year.

Delta reported very strong fourth-quarter results on Friday that beat forecasts, ending its first profitable year since before the pandemic.But a new labor agreement with the pilot union will reduce profitability in the future.

The Atlanta-based airline expects first-quarter earnings per share of 15 to 40 cents, well below the consensus estimate of 55 cents.The main headwind: a new preliminary contract with the pilot union, reached a month ago, which will increase wages by 34% over the life of the contract..

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