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Summary and Comments

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Category: 

Shipping_and_Transportation

Date: 

1998-04-07 12:40:48

Subject: 

The FAA Won't Make the Deadline; Shutdown of Airports Looms

  Link:

http://www.senate.gov/~banking/98_02hrg/021798/witness/dunlap.htm

Comment: 

This February 17 testimony to the Senate Banking Committee deals with the problems confronting the Federal Aviation Administration. The expert witness says that the FAA probably will not make the deadline.

It is interesting that the FAA has known for two years that its IBM systems are not compliant: "The FAA has known for at least two years that its 1970's-vintage IBM 3083 HOST computers would become suspect after midnight on December 31, 1999." The FAA admitted its problem only in late 1997.

The conclusion is shocking:

"The FAA's Y2K problem is of critical importance. If it is not completely resolved, the entire NAS [National Airspace System] could collapse. The FAA says it expects to meet the November 1, 1999 deadline - only two months prior to the crucial date - for ensuring that all its software, hardware, and firmware are Y2K compliant. Given the agency's track record with Advanced Automation System and other modernization efforts, PASS believes it is unlikely the deadline will be met - especially since the FAA does not even have funding allocated."

* * * * * * *

Good Morning. My name is Mark Dunlap. I am an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist at Bradley International Airport and a representative of the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS). . . . PASS provides exclusive representation for over 10,000 Systems Specialists, Flight Inspection Pilots, Aviation Safety Inspectors, and Safety Support Staff employed by the FAA. 'Me services that PASS members perform range from systems maintenance, installation and certification to aviation and flight inspection. . . .

While the year 2000 (or Y2K as it is commonly known) problem is limited for most agencies to systems that perform functions like payroll processing or accounting, the FAA's problem is quite different. PASS Systems Specialists rely on automated systems to maintain the safety and integrity of the NAS. If the Y2K problem goes unresolved, it would severely impact the ability of these Systems Specialists to do their jobs. Due to the complex web of interlocking computer systems such as air traffic control and radar systems, the FAA cannot afford to take chances with the lives of flying passengers,

Problems

A significant number of its computer-based "mission critical" systems may be adversely affected by the Y2K date change, including those systems supporting surveillance, navigation, enroute terminal, oceanic, and traffic flow management automation. On January 1, 2000, the data-handling capabilities of most automated systems will become questionable, having been programmed to read "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. One very large example of the FAA's potential Y2K problem is the HOST computer systems at its Air Route Traffic Control Centers (ARTCC). HOST computers tie all 20 air traffic control centers throughout the country together, analyzing and collating radar data for the air traffic control system. The HOST computer is also a critical component for the backup radar source for Terminal Approach Facilities such as Bradley International Airport. The FAA has known for at least two years that its 1970's-vintage IBM 3083 HOST computers would become suspect after midnight on December 31, 1999. The Y2K threat exists in the HOST microcode, which is used to control the inner processes of the computer. While initial testing has been done, the FAA has not confirmed how much of the threat is real, and whether or not it is correctable. If problems with the microcode are found, IBM has said that it would make its best effort to correct the problem, but would not guarantee that all effors are found and corrected. In other words, if we use this microcode beyond December 3 1, 1999, the FAA would not be guaranteed that the Y2K problem was resolved. But the problem goes far beyond the HOST. Every system in the NAS must be made Y2K compliant because they all interface. If even one system generates erroneous data, it could have serious implications on all other systems with which it interacts, and therefore jeopardize the safety of the flying public. . . .

Precious time has gone by, and the real experts on these systems have not been consulted. Airway Transportation Systems Specialists have not been asked to help identify these problems with the NAS, much less to resolve them. The FAA has chosen to look for solutions to many of its Y2K problems without input from PASS.

Conclusion

The FAA's Y2K problem is of critical importance. If it is not completely resolved, the entire NAS could collapse. The FAA says it expects to meet the November 1, 1999 deadline - only two months prior to the crucial date - for ensuring that all its software, hardware, and firmware are Y2K compliant. Given the agency's track record with Advanced Automation System and other modernization efforts, PASS believes it is unlikely the deadline will be met - especially since the FAA does not even have funding allocated. Not only do all of the pieces of the NAS need to be made Y2K compliant; they also need to be tested under all conditions to ensure that they can "talk" to each other. This will take a significant amount of operational time. Establishing a Y2K office in Washington, with or without funding, is not going to fix this enormous problem. 'Mere are nearly 6,000 Systems Specialists across the country whose expertise is being ignored instead of applied toward resolving this problem.

Absent a complete resolution of the Y2K problem, a contingency plan must be established to prepare air traffic controllers to maintain air safety without the use of automated data services.

Senator Dodd, thank you again for inviting PASS to testify on this very critical problem.

Link: 

http://www.senate.gov/~banking/98_02hrg/021798/witness/dunlap.htm

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