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1998-05-04 18:17:38


British Airports: Y2K Fixes Delayed Several Years



Deadline? What deadline? Not the year 2000, surely.

That's what officials of the three major air traffic control projects in Britain are saying.

This is from COMPUTERWEEKLY NEWS (April 23). [Registration is required.]

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Delays have hit all three of the UK's main software-based air traffic control projects. At the Oceanic transatlantic centre at Prestwick, Ayrshire, systems were due to come on-stream by 2000 to cope with a growth in air traffic of 4%-6%. But work has been delayed by up to two years to accommodate changes to the contract.

The new En Route Centre at Swanwick in Hampshire, which is expected to cope with a 40% increase in air traffic, has also been held up for four years and is not expected to be operational until the end of 1999. And a contract for a new Scottish centre at Prestwick was to have been signed with US aviation specialist Lockheed Martin by now, but has been delayed because of concerns about the Swanwick systems, which are also supplied by Lockheed Martin. . . .

A few months ago John Nordbo, then general manager of the Scottish and Oceanic Area Control Centre run by National Air Traffic Services, told a conference that there was a "real safety issue" over some aircraft flying at reduced separation distances without the necessary equipment. . . .

The Oceanic system was intended to be one of the most advanced systems in the world. It would use automatic dependent surveillance, which uses satellite digital links to help pinpoint the positions of aircraft. This system is due to replace procedures, dating from the 1950s, that require pilots to radio their positions to operators at Shannon in Ireland who then pass text messages to air traffic controllers at Prestwick.

Because the exact location of all transatlantic aircraft is not always known, huge distances between planes are required to reduce the chances of a mid-air collision. The digital data links would allow minimum distances between aircraft to be reduced, allowing more planes to fly optimal routes across the Atlantic.

However, Josh Harrison, technical director of the Air Traffic Controllers Guild, said technical issues remain unsolved.


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