FAA Flying to Catch Up With 'Events'

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FAA Flying to Catch Up With 'Events'

By Stephen Barr Washington Post Staff Writer Tuesday, March 16, 1999; Page A19

The Federal Aviation Administration has entered the stretch run on Y2K.

By the end of June, 33 special FAA management offices, each staffed with about 250 technicians, must successfully complete approximately 4,000 "events," as the FAA describes its Y2K computer work. The "events" can range from installing new computer hardware to making a software "patch" that will keep automated equipment running after Dec. 31.

At a House hearing yesterday, FAA officials expressed confidence they will wrap up their critical Y2K work on schedule. "Within the past year, we have not only caught up with much of the rest of the federal government, we have surpassed the expectations of many," FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey said.

But 26 complicated systems that support air traffic control will be among the last to be fixed. The FAA's challenge will be "to install the fix in the field and make sure it works," Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth M. Mead testified.

Joel C. Willemssen, a Y2K specialist at the General Accounting Office, praised the Year 2000 conversion team at the FAA but described the agency as "trying to play catch-up."

Given that there are no guarantees that every computer glitch will be discovered, Meade urged FAA officials to get more participation by its two key unions--the Professional Airways Systems Specialists and the National Air Traffic Controllers Association--in the development of contingency plans. In case of an unexpected failure, Meade noted, much of the responsibility for continued--and safe--air traffic operations would fall to members of the unions.

Garvey reaffirmed that she would continue seeking union advice in writing contingency plans.

Despite the concerns, the testimony before Reps. Stephen Horn (R-Calif.) and Constance A. Morella (R-Md.), co-chairs for the hearing, indicated a higher level of confidence in the FAA's Y2K effort than before.

Meade said he thought the FAA turning point came in February 1998, when the agency acknowledged it was seven months behind schedule and would have to redouble its Y2K efforts. Over the last 90 days, the FAA has completed more than half of its Y2K changes and has embarked on its last phase of testing, the "end-to-end" tests that check whether systems can exchange data properly and whether individual fixes of components will work together as a whole.

The Year 2000 computer problem, often called Y2K or the "Millennium Bug," dates to the 1960s, when programmers tried to conserve computer memory and save money by using two-digit date fields. Without reprogramming and other fixes, industry experts say that many systems will interpret "00" not as 2000 but as 1900, causing computer malfunctions or shutdowns.

Garvey and Ray Long, the FAA Year 2000 project director, said a major test of computer links will be conducted at 2 a.m., April 10, in Colorado, when an FAA plane flies from Colorado Springs to Grand Junction to Denver International Airport. During the flight, FAA computer systems will be set forward to April 10, 2000. Data from the operational and test sides of the systems will be collected and analyzed to ensure that the various fixes to systems work together during an actual flight.

Foreign Aviation Up in the Air

While the FAA seems closer to solving its Y2K problems, U.S. transportation officials said they will not be able to report on the international aviation scene until more data become available, probably in late summer.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Mortimer L. Downey said the administration would likely consider issuing travel advisories to warn Americans about Y2K risks abroad. Garvey predicted the FAA might face "some very, very hard decisions" on Year 2000 readiness of foreign airlines and airports.

-- Norm (nwo@hotmail.com), March 16, 1999


The FAA has been very consistent - it has missed every deadline it has set for itself. Norm, try reading the FAA press releases from 1/1/98 until today. Then read the letter from IBM to Lockheed Martin (host contractor for maintenance on the FAA computers). Then read my posts over the past 6 months (and the csy2k posts) on the 3083 mainframes. These "news" articles are little more than propaganda fromm Herr Goebbles, er Garvey). If you want you want to post them thats fine. But how about a little research for perspective and analysis? Try looking at the FAA's track record on technology upgrades over the past 10 years. It can be described in one word - dismal.

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), March 16, 1999.

U.S. To Face Tough 2000 Choice On Foreign Flights

By Tim Dobbyn

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Tough decisions must be made soon on whether to bar U.S. airlines from flying to certain foreign destinations where Year 2000 computer problems may exist, Congress was told Monday.

Department of Transportation (DOT) Inspector General Ken Mead gave a largely favorable report on domestic aviation readiness to a joint hearing of two House committees. But he warned of trouble abroad, without naming specific countries.

``We believe it is time to develop a policy as to whether U.S. carriers or U.S. code-share flights will be allowed to fly to countries that are not known to be Y2K compliant,'' Mead said.

Code-sharing is a marketing tool used by airline alliances; it allows an airline to put its brand on flights flown by its partners.

Federal Aviation Administration chief Jane Garvey told the same hearing that information being gathered by the Montreal-based International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) would be critical in making decisions about international flights.

``I think we are going to have some very hard decisions post June 30, together with the State Department and the industry, once we understand what the situation is,'' Garvey said.

The Y2K problem occurs because until recently most computers and their software only allocated two digits for the year in a date.

Unless computers are repaired or replaced, the year 2000 may be read as 1900, causing mistakes or systems to crash.

The FAA was late in starting work on fixing or replacing the elderly patchwork of hundreds of computers that make up its air traffic control system.

While it will not meet the Clinton administration's deadline to have all of its systems repaired, tested and operational by March 31, Garvey is promising to have the work done by June 30.

The General Accounting Office, the congressional auditor, believes Garvey is overly optimistic.

``If FAA can pull it off -- great,'' said GAO information systems expert Joel Willemssen. ``I'm not sure they can with the thoroughness of testing we'll be looking for.''

Mead, the DOT's inspector general, said he would rather see the job done right than have the June 30 deadline met artificially, a view he felt sure the FAA shared.

``I think everybody up here shares that view also,'' said Rep. Steve Horn, the California Republican who chairs the House Government Reform technology subcommittee.

FAA hopes to have all 65 of its air traffic control systems repaired, tested and back in operation by the end of June. At the end of February, work had been completed on only 21 of the systems, or 32 percent of the total.

Contingency plans are also being drawn up by the FAA to cope with failures. In any case, Garvey repeated that safety would not be compromised and the number of flights would be cut if necessary to maintain safe operations.

GAO was particularly critical of what it said was inadequate testing of a 1960s-vintage computer system that handles critical radar information during planes' approach to airports.

Garvey said Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE:LMT - news), which maintained the system, would be sending a letter later Monday backing its opinion that the system was year-2000 ready but expressing willingness to subject the system to further testing.

``We do not minimize the challenge ahead of us, but I really do think we have it laid out in a methodical way that will allow us to meet that challenge,'' she said.

The Air Transport Association (ATA), which represents the airlines carrying over 90 percent of U.S. air traffic, is comfortable with the FAA's progress.

``Domestically we have things way under control, and internationally we will have to see what these (ICAO) results are,'' ATA Year 2000 Director Tom Browne told Reuters outside the hearing.

-- pshannon (pshannon@inch.com), March 16, 1999.


Can you (or anyone else) provide URL's for HTML on the above two mentioned hearings?

It would be interesting to read what was said in the actual hearings themselves.

-- Interested (inreading@reports.com), March 16, 1999.

Didn't Jane Garvey say that the FAA was 99% compliant in September??

-- LL-Y2K-J (Liedetector@y2klookout.com), March 16, 1999.


Yup, 99% compliant on Sept 29, 1998 according to Garvey. The K-man said 90-95% compliant in Nov. Then ?Long? said 32% as of "critical systems" a few weeks ago. Great track record. Keep posting Norm. I'll save all the quotes of how great the work is going and feed it back to you in October when the panic starts.

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), March 16, 1999.

Somewhere I read a letter from the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (ATC Union) to the Y2K Senate committee. It was extremely revealing as to the"people in the trenches" thoughts on the FAA situation. Has anyone else read it and if so, do you know where to find it? I've looked - could it have been removed because of the content?

-- Valkyrie (anon@please.net), March 16, 1999.


The link is:

Air Traffic Controller

-- RD. ->H (drherr@erols.com), March 16, 1999.

F.Y.I. House GMIT Testimony links. -- Diane

House Subcomittee on Government Management, Information & Technology < br> Hearings & Testimony

http:// www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/hindex.htm

Recent Hearings

"Will Transportation and FAA be Ready for the Year 2000?"
March 15, 1999

http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/ 990315h.htm


The Honorable Mortimer L. Downey
Deputy Secretary
Department of Transportation

http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/ 990315md.htm

Ms. Jane F. Garvey
Federal Aviation Administration

http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/ 990315jg.htm

Mr. Kenneth M. Mead
Inspector General
Department of Transportation

http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/ 990315km.htm

Mr. Joel C. Willemssen
Director, Civil Agencies Information Systems
General Accounting Office

http://www.house.gov/reform/gmit/hearings/testimony/ 990315jw.htm

-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), March 17, 1999.

not that I'm a big fan of the 'let's see how many through clicks we can get for the ads' but Declan's March 8th article also seems to apply here:



Air Travel Terror By Declan McCullagh March 8, 1999

One of the most cherished goals of every bureaucrat is to avoid public scrutiny. Sure, adulatory press-release-driven media coverage is OK. But any whiff of criticism? Time to head for the hills.

So it was with relish that we watched FAA bureaucrats sweat last Friday before a hearing of Rep. Connie Morella's House Science subcommittee.

They came to talk about R&D budgets. But in the last few minutes, Morella grabbed the opportunity to quiz them about Y2K.

What kind of "Y2K remediation" progress on air traffic control systems was the Federal Aviation Administration making, asked Morella, a Republican from Maryland.

"We got a late start in FAA, a little bit. I'm very optimistic," stuttered Steven Zaidman, apparently unaware of the seeming contradiction.

"Our schedule is, unfortunately, three months behind the [White House's Office of Management and Budget's] suggested schedule... We have 630 odd systems, 400 of which are mission critical. We have every expectation that we will meet 100 percent of our verification and testing goal by the end of March and our implementation goal by the end of June," said Zaidman, an associate R&D administrator.

He reassured the committee that he had "personally attended" a Y2K air traffic control simulation in January. Another will take place in March in Atlantic City.


What did an official in the FAA's inspector general's office -- aka an internal auditor -- think?

Alexis Stefani was much less optimistic. Only 31 percent of the agency's computers were completely fixed, she told the committee.

"FAA now faces an additional kind of problem. They're shooting for the end of June to have all of their systems done, but it becomes an implementation [problem]," Stefani said, noting that some systems are scattered around dozens or even hundreds of locations. Technicans have to travel to each of them.

Another problem? Some systems are customized. "There may have been local adaptations at that facility... that will have to be dealt with when they actually implement the Y2K fix at that location," Stefani said.

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), March 18, 1999.

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