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1998-05-19 08:17:13


Atlanta Airport: Another Doomed Building



The Federal Aviation Administration's air traffic control computers aren't compliant. The airline industry is doomed. Let's not quibble about words. Doomed. Kaput.

So are the airports. One by one, they report: "We're not compliant." The game now is to save place: "We're further ahead than. . . ." Well, so what? The industry is doomed, no matter where you look, except the stock market. There, every thing is hunky-dory.

Hunky dory immediately precedes humpty-dumpty.

The airport's y2k staff is not yet finished with its assessment. According to the California White Paper, awareness is 1% of a y2k project; inventory is 1%; assessment is 5%. This means that the Atlanta airport has over 90% of its work ahead of it. Forget it. It's doomed.

Meanwhile, "The ATA [Air Transport Association] is just beginning to evaluate external systems at 150 airports. 'Most airports have programs in place. Some haven't even begun year 2000 work yet, which is kind of alarming at this point,' Browne said. 'As far as how long it will take, it depends on what's out there and what needs to be fixed.'" The industry is doomed.

The stock market isn't very healthy, either.

This is from the ATLANTA BUSINESS CHRONICLE (May 18).

* * * * * * *

An effort to identify and fix potential computer glitches caused by the year 2000 is just getting under way at Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport.

And the most encouraging comment Hartsfield officials can make is that it's better off than other airports around the country.

The Air Transport Association (ATA), an airline trade group, is scheduled to evaluate nearly 117 systems at Hartsfield next month -- including security check points, fuel systems and runway lighting. In addition, Atlanta's Department of Aviation plans to commission its own assessment of less critical systems in June, for completion in August.

"If the airport is just starting, they are in trouble," said Jim Jones, managing director of the Information Management Forum's Y2K group. "They will not have enough time to do the job right. The question is, will they have enough time to do the job at all?"

Hartsfield, which is expected to handle more than 70 million passengers this year, relies on interlocking computer systems controlled by the airport, vendors, airlines and Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to run its operations. If computer problems related to 2000 are not identified and corrected, systems could fail. In a worst-case scenario, airline and airport programs could malfunction, grounding flights in Atlanta and throughout the world. . . .

At Hartsfield, baggage claims, fuel systems, loading bridges, ticketing systems and firetrucks are some of the areas that could be affected. Systems that are year 2000 compliant could still be affected if they are tied to noncompliant systems.

To be sure, Hartsfield has already identified some systems that rely on dates and need to be compliant -- such as those for security badges. But after ATA's and Hartsfield's assessments are completed, troubled systems will still have to be remedied and tested.

"We're behind where we should be as far as Y2K is concerned," said Otis Clark, Hartsfield's information systems manager. "We're ahead of some airports and behind some. But we should be able to get things done that we need to get done before the new millennium."

Hartsfield is not alone

Hartsfield's study, estimated to cost $50,000, will assess less critical systems the ATA study does not, including elevator operations and Department of Aviation business and finance systems. The airport's potential cost of assessment, remediation and testing has not been determined, Clark said. . . .

The FAA, which controls air traffic at all airports throughout the United States is implementing a program that would bring all its systems into compliance by June 1999. The FAA has radar equipment, navigation aids, communications equipment and display screens that depend on numerous codes that tell the systems what to do. About 40 mainframe IBM 3083 computers operated by the FAA cannot be fixed, and IBM has recommended replacing them.

One of the mainframes is at the Air Traffic Control Center in Hampton, Ga.

Officials have said the FAA is more than six months behind in assessing the extent of the Y2K problem on its air traffic control system. The FAA plans to spend more than $50 million to update is systems by the end of 1998. All systems will be renovated by October of this year, testing will be complete by March 1999 and all systems will be compliant before 2000, according to Kathleen Bergen, a spokesperson for the FAA in Atlanta. . . .

Delta Air Lines Inc. began planning in 1995 and has already fixed several systems. "We want to be as comprehensive as possible because missing one thing could mean a whole system going down," said Kip Smith, corporate communications manager at Delta.

Delta, which operates more than 80 percent of the flights at Hartsfield, has an internal team of more than 200 and outside consultants who have identified, assessed and corrected systems that have already been affected. Among them are the SkyMiles program, where expiration dates go beyond 2000, and maintenance scheduling -- a critical part of Delta's operations. "We plan to operate seamlessly through the year 2000," Smith said.

The company has not released information on the amount it is spending on the Y2K problem, or how many systems still need checking. . . .

The ATA is just beginning to evaluate external systems at 150 airports. "Most airports have programs in place. Some haven't even begun year 2000 work yet, which is kind of alarming at this point," Browne said. "As far as how long it will take, it depends on what's out there and what needs to be fixed."


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