Air Travel Delays Expected

The airline industry, expecting its busiest Memorial Day weekend ever, is warning passengers to expect more delays, reports CBS News Correspondent Randall Pinkston.

The blame, say the airlines, is not theirs. It's the Federal Aviation Administration's effort to update its antiquated air-traffic-control system.

The FAA's Steve Brown says, "When we have unexpected and very temporary glitches occur in the system, we will slow it down."

Those glitches can cause delays around the nation. Earlier this month, the air center that services greater New York experienced partial outages. Last weekend, a new communications system over the Pacific went down for over three hours. Still, the FAA insists, air travel is safe.

"There are a number of backups that are in place for any system that we have," says Brown.

The upgrades include a new air-routing computer called "HOCSAR." This modestly sized unit does the job of a computer that once filled an entire room.

Replacing old air-traffic scopes with new display terminals to track incoming and departing flights is trickier. These new systems failed twice in New York. Critics question the FAA's ability to perform the upgrade.

Paul Hudson, of the Aviation Consumer Action project, says "The FAA has tried three times before this and failed to modernize the system. And those previous systems have all been junked."

The FAA insists it's on track to complete the first phase of improvements by the end of the summer. But the pressure is on.

If this upgrade doesn't work, it may be too late to replace the old network without inconveniencing passengers even more.

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