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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397185 - 09/30/14 07:34 AM

Back in the day, MITRE had a project to think through potential backup plans, and one of them envisioned distributed centers where instead of working a large contiguous block of airspace, each center worked sectors scattered all over the country. The idea was that if one center crashed, it would be easier to deal with transferring responsibility for smaller outages all over to 20 other facilities than to try to transfer a huge block of airspace to a relatively few adjacent centers. For instance, under a "normal" backup plan if Seattle crashed, Oakland and Salt Lake would have to take half a center each. If Virtual Seattle crashed, Boston could pick up a sector or two in the northeast, Jacksonville could take one or two in the southeast, etc. Apparently they decided it was administratively too cumbersome, but I still think it has merit - especially since the technology of distributed processing has come a LONG way since the 1980s when they cooked that plan up.

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Stephanie Belser-2
Top Gun APC


Reged: 04/28/04
Posts: 7139
Loc: KFAM
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Richard Duxbury (Dux)]
      #397186 - 09/30/14 08:32 AM

Quote:

You are correct -totally doing a redundant system -perhaps at a different location would cost 2-3B.




Kind of small potatoes compared to what might be the largest redundant system project in the country: NYC's Water Tunnel #3. It's taking at least fifty years to build it and it's being done so that the other tunnel systems can be maintained and repaired.

--------------------
If you wish to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first invent the universe.-- Carl Sagan


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Ward Miller POU-NY
Top Gun


Reged: 05/05/04
Posts: 10508
Loc: New York
FAA's many soft spots [Re: Scott Dunham (RDU)]
      #397193 - 09/30/14 12:53 PM

Excellent, Scott!

Thinking outside the box is always refreshing.

When if comes to disaster plans after the object system is already running,
there is a tremendous resistance. Next, the naysayers proclaim it would cost
too much. So, the plan for a plan dies.

In situations like this, I'm reminded of the best manager I ever worked for.
He would say, " Don't tell me why this *won't* work, explain to me what you
are going to do so this *will* work!"


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397195 - 09/30/14 01:39 PM

Quote:

Russell, "redundant rooms" is not always the answer. How about "distributed" rooms? Don't put all your eggs in one basket, to coin a phrase. If one basket is dropped, the other baskets are safe. That doesn't cost much, but maybe offers an acceptable measure of security.




Depends on what the results of losing one room would be.

Remember Lindbergh? He flew a single engine plane on his historic flight. Because in that day a twin-engine airplane couldn't fly on one engine. So having two engines doubled his odds of failure. But later he was the driving force for requiring passenger airplanes to be able to complete their flight after a single engine failure.

Bottom line: If it's not a redundant room, I'm not sure as it would do you any good, and may in fact be a step backward. It would also be a pain in the rear to maintain.


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sreyoB yrraL
AVSIG Member


Reged: 05/16/04
Posts: 9442
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397202 - 09/30/14 03:03 PM

Quote:

Larry, that is the tradition thinking, but often it is just not so. If a disaster is thought about at design time, many simple steps can be taken to minimize problems later on. For example, in this case if the servers had been distributed among several different rooms rather than all in one, recovery would have been easier.



Since this was a deliberate attack by an insider with knowledge of how the system worked, why do you think that he wouldn't have adjusted his attack based on how the system was designed? In your multi-room example he could have started fires in the multiple rooms or chosen a different point of attack that wasn't redundant? Alternately, he could have started the fire in the control room itself which also isn't redundant.

In any case, the result would likely have been the same. All airplanes landing safely and the flight schedules involving Chicago Center airspace were impacted.

How much money do we spend to avoid inconvenience in the event of relatively unlikely occurrences? Wouldn't that money be better spent in areas that could produce broad based improvement in overall system safety?


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Geoff Sjostrom - Chicago
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 4312
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397205 - 09/30/14 04:07 PM

Quote:

For example, in this case if the servers had
been distributed among several different rooms rather than all in one,
recovery would have been easier.



I'm not so sure about that. In this case you're dealing with the most formidable enemy possible: An employee of the Center. With a bit of work he could have known where all the critical rooms were and made arrangements to sabotage them more or less simultaneously.


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Ward Miller POU-NY
Top Gun


Reged: 05/05/04
Posts: 10508
Loc: New York
FAA's many soft spots [Re: Geoff Sjostrom - Chicago]
      #397213 - 09/30/14 06:16 PM

>> An employee of the Center. <<

I thought he was a sub-contractor.

As to your other comments, maybe, maybe not.


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Ward Miller POU-NY
Top Gun


Reged: 05/05/04
Posts: 10508
Loc: New York
FAA's many soft spots [Re: Russell Holton]
      #397214 - 09/30/14 06:16 PM

In other words, are you saying forget about a emergency plan?

Do you have smoke alarms in your home? That is the first step of an
emergency plan.


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Russell Holton
AVSIG Member


Reged: 07/07/05
Posts: 14136
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397216 - 09/30/14 07:37 PM

Quote:

In other words, are you saying forget about a emergency plan?

Do you have smoke alarms in your home? That is the first step of an
emergency plan.




It's all about cost/benefit. If smoke alarms cost $100,000, no I wouldn't have them.


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Scott Dunham (RDU)
Top Gun


Reged: 04/29/04
Posts: 6470
Loc: Chapel Hill, NC
Re: FAA's many soft spots [Re: Ward Miller POU-NY]
      #397219 - 09/30/14 09:09 PM

One of my Mitre pals invented a method of spacing aircraft on converging approach paths and finally got it through the FAA bureaucracy and into the field. He did a briefing for us on the (nightmare) process. One of the comments was that the software had to be approved in some way by something like 95 different offices. As he put it, in the FAA no one could say "yes" and get the project implemented, but any one of those 95 offices could say "no." It's a pretty hidebound operation.

The funny thing is that when they HAVE to, they can get things done, and done well - mostly because they focus on the work instead of the BS. For instance, they were scared to death about the Y2K problem crashing the system, so they plowed through all the (in some cases ancient) software and fixed whatever needed fixing. I'm sure the Tech Ops people in Chicago are working 24/7 to get the facility back up, and I'll bet they get it done inside of the initially estimated restoral time. They're really a great bunch when they're cut loose to do what they're good at.


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