FAA and Harris Restore Air Traffic Operations to Puerto Rico
On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria made landfall in Puerto Rico leaving residents without power and grounding all flights entering and leaving San Juan Airport (SJU) making it difficult to provide aid. It was a category 5 hurricane, the worst disaster ever recorded in Puerto Rico and the most intense tropical cyclone the world saw in 2017.
Enter the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) and Harris Corporation. The two organizations restored vital communications with use of the FAA Telecommunications Infrastructure (FTI), a network across the United States and all its territories that connects aircraft, air traffic facilities, and all the airspace in between. By working together, air traffic operations resumed so relief could continue.
The Harris team migrated communications and built advanced solutions to restore connectivity to the island territory quickly. Together they restored critical communications between San Juan Center and Miami Center and deployed an emergency flyaway satellite communications system to reconnect air traffic facilities on the island.
As a result, San Juan Center operations were restored in just 48 hours.
"The professionalism and technical expertise (the Harris) team provided was key in making restorations to our national operations,” said Vaughn A. Turner, Vice President, Technical Operations Services, FAA. “(Harris) were steadfast in their support of NAS Operations."
After critical communications were restored, work was not finished. Harris team members worked with the government of Puerto Rico to repair damaged radomes, structures containing radar equipment, and other air traffic infrastructure so the island could resume normal operations.
As of February 2018 normal services have been restored and the ATC infrastructure is fully operational. The flyaway and mobile gateway solutions have been returned to storage as Harris and the FAA prepare for the upcoming hurricane season.
“We experienced problems never encountered before due to these storms,” said Turner. “Cooperation with the FAA and coordination of resources and new technology for the NAS made all of this possible.”