Wired recently took a look at a potentially scary prospect. At any given time, around 7,000 aircraft are flying over the United States. For the past 40 years, the same computer system, a 1970’s system called Host, has controlled all that high-altitude traffic. The Host system predates the advent of the Global Positioning System. Host uses point-to-point, ground-based radar. Every day, thousands of travelers switch their GPS-enabled smartphones to airplane mode while their flights are guided by technology that predates it. Host is still safe, but it’s unbelievably inefficient and the FAA knows it. It has been slowly working toward a new system. However, according to the article, implementation has been a mess, with many delays, revisions, and unforeseen problems. The updated system is slated to go online this spring, five years late and at least $500 million over budget. The article argues that modernization is a struggle for all federal agencies, as they are “risk-averse, methodical, and bureaucratic.”

You can read the complete Wired article here.