Middle east cooperation toward fixing y2k problems with air travel

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Y2K Brings Open Skies to Mideast by Tania Hershman

3:00 a.m. 16.Apr.99.PDT JERUSALEM -- Come 1 January, Christians here are hoping for the arrival of the Messiah. But Israeli airport officials are concerned about arrivals and departures of an earthly nature. The officials met this week with their Egyptian counterparts to discuss the potential for Y2K havoc in the skies over the region. Their meeting may do more for Middle Eastern unity than politicians and peace accords have.

"January 1st 2000 is a critical date," said David Oren, head of the Israel Airports Authority's Computing and Information Systems Division.

Oren's team has been preparing for 2000 for more than three years. He said that his team has now covered "95 percent of the issues" and is busy preparing emergency contingency plans regarding flight patterns and air-traffic control.

However, such contingency plans may well call for a little neighborly assistance -- always a delicate matter in the Middle East. The Egyptians, who were the first to sign a peace accord with Israel in the 1970s, have also been the first of Israel's neighbors to sign a formal agreement with this country regarding any crises that arise on or around 1 January.

"The agreement deals with what will happen if things go wrong, what alternate flight routes will be taken," explains Oren. "There is a mutual interest here, because even if we are prepared, if one of our neighbors isn't, then we have a problem."

Monday's gathering of Egyptian aviation officials followed up last month's one-day conference in Tel Aviv about potential Y2K aviation problems, which brought Israelis face to face with representatives from Egypt and the other two neighbors with which the nation has signed peace accords: Jordan and the Palestinian Authority.

Also present were representatives from Cyprus, the International Air Transport Association (IATA), and the American Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

Egyptian representatives said during their recent visit that ad-hoc regional Y2K headquarters are being established in Cairo.

"We will have an Israeli there the week before [the] New Year," said Oren. The other participating countries are expected to follow suit. They'll also attend regular regional meetings between now and the end of the year.

The Israelis have no idea, though, of the actual degree of readiness of their neighbors. According to the head of Israel's Civil Aviation Authority, Avner Yarkoni, Israel is "one of the most advanced countries in the world" in terms of millennium readiness.

Ben Gurion Airport, the country's international terminal, reportedly falls into the top of the IATA's four categories of Y2K compliance. But David Oren said that his Middle Eastern counterparts remain tight-lipped: "All I know is what I read in the papers."

In any case, worries about New Year's Eve air travel may well keep most passengers away.

In a gesture intended to calm such public jitters, Shaul Yahalom, Israel's Transport Minister, recently announced that he would fly on New Year's Day. When he was quietly informed that 1 January will fall on the Jewish Sabbath, he quickly changed his plans.

-- Arlin H. Adams (ahadams@ix.netcom.com), April 16, 1999


Oh yeah, that's where I wanna be at one of the most volatile moments in modern history: the Middle East. Lots of fireworks at midnight, some of which might even be non-military ordinance.

I'll settle for the quiet New England suburbs, sitting near the wood stove with a kerosene lamp and a good book (or maybe THE Good Book).

-- rick blaine (y2kazoo@hotmail.com), April 16, 1999.

At least it's a way to get opposing parties cooperating. Maybe it's a step in the right direction, and Y2K contributing in some way.

2000 is not just a Y2K time. IT IS THE MILLENIUM and has religious meaning to Christians. Israel, Jerusalem, Bethlehem... is the place where history was changed 2000 years ago. Some say it is the time of a return. In any case it's a historic and noteworthy time to remember, and many people may want to be there for it.

-- steve (steve@albany.ny), April 16, 1999.

Could redefine "Getting to Know Your Neighbors" in times of mutual need.

Lessons, lessons, everywhere.


-- Diane J. Squire (sacredspaces@yahoo.com), April 16, 1999.

Christians are clueless. It's already around 2005, 2006 because the idiot Catholics miscounted the purported dates for J.C.

-- A (A@AisA.com), April 16, 1999.

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