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1998-02-17 23:04:51


Customized Software Foils Y2K Repairs in Air Traffic Control



Air traffic control in a new British airport relies on 1960's era computer software. It is so specialized that it cannot be abandoned.

This is the universal defect of all large legacy systems, but air traffic control for some reason has received considerable press in the first two months of 1998.

This is from COMPUTERWORLD (Feb. 12).

* * * * * * * *

IT staff are struggling with mounting technical problems and year 2000 issues at the 350m Swanwick Air Traffic Control Centre, despite assurances to MPs this week that it would open on schedule in 1999. The "state-of-the-art" New En Route Centre at Swanwick in Hampshire will rely for its flight data processing system on software dating back to the 1960s which is not millennium complaint.

The operating system has been so heavily customised by the state-owned air traffic control authority, National Air Traffic Services, that IBM's millennium experts are unable to support the upgrades to the software to ensure year 2000 compliance. Instead IBM has been able only to pass on technical information on its hardware, hoping that the service's specialists can make the necessary software enhancements.

The unresolved year 2000 problems relate mainly to two different sets of systems. The first is the Flight Data Processing System at the London Air Traffic Control Centre near Heathrow Airport. This prints out the flight progress strips that tell air traffic controllers the height, call-sign code, speed and destination of the aircraft.

This system, regarded as obsolete in the 1980s, needs considerable work to make it millennium compliant. It is, however, due to feed flight data into the Swanwick centre which the Government this week promised would become operational in the winter of 1999.

Swanwick itself has separate date bug problems. . . .


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