Controllers Resort to Cell Phones in California

Last year, a U.K. pilot used his mobile phone to gain landing clearance via text messages. Last week, the entire Oakland Center in Fremont, California, was reduced to using cell phones to communicate with other ATC facilities and pilots - relaying instructions through other ATC outlets. For about 15 minutes between 8 and 8:30 a.m. on Wednesday, all communications at the center were cut off. Controllers used their personal cell phones to contact other ATC approach and departure controllers and to relay directions to aircraft through those other facilities. An FAA spokesman said no aircraft were in danger at any time. He also said cell phone usage is part of contingency planning for controllers. An unnamed contractor was blamed for the outage, and the spokesman said new measures are being taken to add further redundancy so the tense episode cannot happen again.