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1997-11-11 19:01:51


No Planes in the Sky to Fall: The Mess at the FAA



The aging radar units that the FAA uses to keep the friendly skies friendly are not y2k-compliant. So testified economist Ed Yardeni to the Senate Banking Committee on November 4. That's not all that isn't compliant at the FAA.

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Here are some less-than-reassuring excerpts from the Guidance Document about the FAA's year 2000 problem:

1. "Much has been written about the problems facing business applications that compute such things as ages, expiration dates, and due dates, by subtracting one year from another. There is much less information available about the impact on more sophisticated systems, such as radar processors, communications processors, and satellite systems."

2. "The systems affected are primarily legacy systems, although all systems should be checked to ensure they correctly handle a four-digit year field. The types of systems include mainframe, client/server, workstations, distributed systems, telecommunications systems like PBXs, networks, possibly radar processors, and communication processors."

3. "The FAA does not have direct control over updating of commercial application software, commercial off-the-shelf items, or non-developmental items on which many critical systems depend .Many FAA systems depend on data supplied by other systems running on different platforms. Many FAA systems receive data from and provide data to systems external to the FAA . In all these cases, dates need to be changed at the same time and in the same manner, or bridges need to be built to handle conversion of dates from one format to another .In many cases the developers have long since retired or been promoted and the current owners do not know what all the components are or what interfaces are."

4. "The FAA has been downsizing and many of the senior information systems people who developed the software have retired. Even if funds are available to pay for contract programming support, this support is going to become increasingly difficult to find as the deadline approaches."

5. "There is concern that some of the products that the FAA is using will not be upgraded to be Year 2000 compliant. In recent years, a number of large companies have bought out their competitors and continued maintaining their competitors' products even though they perform the same function as their own products. It is not clear that these vendors are going to make all the products Year 2000 compliant. If they drop support on some products, anyone using the abandoned products will need to upgrade or convert to another product. There is also a concern that some vendors will simply go out of business rather than incur the cost of upgrading their products to Year 2000 compliance."


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