The ancient IBM mainframes that run 20 of the FAA's systems are so old that only 100 of them are thought to be in use. Yet they are at the heart of the U.S. air control system.
Can they be replaced in time? Opinions differ. Testing is the problem. They may be able to re-write the code, but can they transport it to new computers and then test it by late 1999? Nobody knows.
This story appeared in COMPUTERWORLD (Jan. 19).
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Few companies face the problem the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration now confronts: keeping 30 ancient IBM 3083 computers from suffering year 2000 failures. And if IBM has its way, the FAA won't have to deal with the problem, either.
Fewer than 100 of those old machines are still in use, according to IBM, in Armonk, N.Y. And businesses would be foolish to continue running applications especially mission-critical ones on them, analysts agreed.
But the FAA may be the exception. The 3083s, which were manufactured in the early 1980s, are used at a majority of the FAA's Air Route Traffic Control Centers. The 20 control centers keep track of all aircraft in U.S. airspace. The 3083s take radar information and translate it into visual display data, reporting an aircraft's location, identity, altitude, speed and destination for flight controllers. . . .
The FAA is about a month away from completing its year 2000 assessment on the 3083s and the approximately 500,000 lines of code that run on them, said Paul Takemoto, an FAA spokesman in Washington.
``We believe we have both the tools and the people to certify [the 3083] as [year 2000]-compliant,'' he said. Even so, the FAA may scrap the 3083s if the assessment shows they must be replaced. . . .
John Young, vice president of enterprise systems planning at The Clipper Group, Inc., in Wellesley, Mass., was skeptical about the FAA's ability to make the machines compliant in that time frame. ``Solving the problem is only the first step. The hard part is doing all of the testing to ensure that you got everything out of there and that's a time-consuming effort.''