Air Traffic Control in 2000??? : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

This is from USA Today.

Can't wait to see the stats for 1st qtr 2000. Can you say "Peter De Jager is toast"??



Traffic control errors up; planes get closer By Alan Levin, USA TODAY

Air traffic controllers are bringing planes too close together more often, figures obtained by USA TODAY show.

Errors by air traffic controllers climbed from 746 in fiscal 1997 to 878 in fiscal 1998, an 18% increase. The errors per million flights handled by controllers climbed from 4.8 to 5.5.

FAA figures for the first three months of fiscal 1999 (October to December), the most recent available, also show that errors are ahead of last year's pace.

The trend does not mean the skies are less safe, experts and FAA officials say. Errors are still rare, and most involve planes passing so far apart that there is no danger of collision.

But some experts fear the numbers mean it will be difficult to make the current system safer. The Federal Aviation Administration wants an 80% reduction in accidents by 2007.

"We have a pretty good system which is operating pretty safely," says John Hansman of the International Center for Air Transportation. "It tells you that it is going to be extremely difficult to make substantial improvements in safety."

Says Ronald Morgan, the FAA's air traffic chief: "Have we reached the expected level of human performance? Will it take automation to decrease the level of human errors?"

Morgan says two systems expected in coming years could help. One allows controllers and pilots to communicate via an e-mail-like system, which should reduce errors of miscommunication. The other uses computers to give controllers more warning when planes are headed toward each other.

Bill Blackmer , a safety expert with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, says another way to reduce errors is to improve controller morale.

For traffic flying above 29,000 feet, planes must be separated by 5 miles horizontally. Planes may pass closer than that if they are at least 2,000 feet apart vertically. Separation distances shrink near airports.

-- Roland (, February 24, 1999


I am a Captain for a large regional airline and have flown extensively out of busy airports such as Dallas-Ft. Worth, LAX, and SFO. Although I am concerned about Y2K, I don't think it has anything to do with the problems chronicled in the USA Today. The volume of air traffic has been growing steadily over the past few years, and Y2K notwithstanding, is clearly taxed beyond its capacity. The air traffic control folks are doing a supurb job with antique equipment. Two mainframe computers have had to be cannibalized for parts since spares are no longer available. It will be a miracle if the present system even makes it to 2000.

Among pilots the USA Today is considered to be inaccurate and sensationalist.USA Today Aviation articles are posted on our bulletin board for comedic value as they are so distorted and inaccurate they are hysterically funny. The only reason I read the USA Today at all is because it is given out for free at most layover hotels (pilots are notoriously cheap and love anything free).

I AM concerned about the amount of mis-information flowing out of Jane Garvey's FAA. Last fall the FAA claimed 99% compliance, which dropped to 95%, then 90% after GAO audits. Recently Congressman Stephen Horn gave the DOT/FAA a failing grade in Y2K compliance. The FAA is a VERY political organization and is working overtime to crank out a pretty dog-and-pony show for the traveling public. I don't plan on being anywhere near an airplane Dec. 31st.

-- sigmet (, February 24, 1999.

I totally agree with "sigmet".

As a private (sel) pilot since 1972, and a business traveller for a hell of a lot longer, I can vouch for the tremendous job that air traffic controllers do, day in and day out.

What worries me is that the IBM 3083 - the platform on which the ATC system is based - can no longer be supported by IBM. They have seriuos trouble even finding technicians that can work on these systems. The FAA plan to upgrade the ATC system is 2 or more years behind schedule - of 19 systems, they have upgraded two in the last two years.

Air traffic controllers cannot go back to passing slips of paper between the tower, approach control, and ATC centers.

As for USA TODAY, they scrounge around for anything they can print that has to do with the airline industry, true or not, just so airport passengers will buy their rag.

Good luck, sigmet.

Mike Cumbie

-- Michael H. Cumbie (, February 24, 1999.

Thanks for your post, sigmet. Just this morning I was wondering about the disparity in reports around the FAA and air-traffic-control remediation. In fact, the whole situation was dizzy-making. You've explained it. It continues to be rare and valuable to hear 'inside' reports.

-- cat (, February 24, 1999.

As one of those air traffic controllers (17+ years), I appreciate the praise. I agree with sigmet and Mike?? the private pilot. First let me state that I am not speaking as a Y2K remediation expert, I am speaking an air traffic expert. As such, I think the picture painted about the state of aviation after Y2K is a bit too rosy. I answered the "flights may be rationed" thread in greater detail so I won't repeat myself here but I wlll provide a link to the controller's union (NATCA) website. There is an interesting tidbit on Y2K and contingency planning that may interest a pilot or anyone else interested in aviation.

The link:

-- RampRat (Aviation_R_us@noname.nocity), February 25, 1999.

Okay. Sigh. Let's try that link one more time...

-- RampRat (Aviation_R_us@noname.nocity), February 25, 1999.

Ever had one of those days? The NATCA address is correct in the initial message. The second address is the old one. Sorry for the confusion folks.

-- RampRat (Aviation_R_us@noname.nocity), February 25, 1999. publicsafety.html

link FYI: Japan Airlines has spent more than 3 billion yen (US$27 million) on 63,000 software products totaling 31.5 million program lines. JAL has been working since 1995 and has finished 80 percent of the work and is scheduled to be done in October, 1999. The U.S. press reported that the FAA and Japan Civil Aviation authorities conducted a successful y2k test in October, 1998. I have learned that the test consisted of sending faxes to confirm aircraft handoffs between regions. Great test.

-- PNG (, February 25, 1999.

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