Air traffic control "techs" stage protests/pickets - claim FAA rushing new equipment in too fast for safety. : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I looked and couldn't find a thread on this already.... Late yesterday was watching the new (usually CNN but I did some channel surfing - not sure which station had it) and they had a story on union air traffic control "techs" who are picketing and protesting what they claim to be the FAA rushing new computers into service without adequate testing and putting everyone at risk. I believe the FAA was responding that these were disgruntled union workers working without a contract since 1997 who are out to make FAA look bad. The reporter also mentioned at least 5 or 6 times this year where the systems went down.

I have yet to see another mention of this on the news and the fact that I didn't find a thread tells me this is not getting much airtime?! Anyone else see this?

-- Kristi (, July 17, 1999


Hello again,

I checked out tfletch's site and she(?) had it there:

Happy reading!

-- Kristi (, July 17, 1999.


-- Diane J. Squire (, July 17, 1999.

A similiar article made page 9 of the Orlando Sentinel this morning. AIRLINES BLAME DELAY PROBLEM ON FAA'S NEW RADAR.

First Paragraph:

"Airlines say their flying into trouble with passengers and losing hundreds of millions of dollars as the government replaces aging radar systems with new equipment that doesn't work much better - and sometimes is worse."

It does mentioned the union being disgruntled at the end of the article but about protesters


-- Battle Bob (, July 17, 1999.

OOPs! I left out "nothing" it should have been nothing about protesters.


-- Battle Bob (, July 17, 1999.

Well, now we have one more thing to add to the incompetent, deceiving FAA management. Besides all the lies about remediation progress, they now admit that they have been ducking and stalling the front line troops on a new contract. Two years without progress on that item. This is the sort of organization that has running our air traffic system. Another lesson in what you get with a bureaucratic management.

-- Gordon (, July 17, 1999.

Seems I mentioned this in a thread a while ago. Probably in a few. The old computers were the very OLD analog tube type and the new computers IBM was selling them are Y2K compliant, but have not had the bugs worked out of them. Some of these newer ones have been taken off line.

-- Cherri (, July 17, 1999.


I also don't think that these problems result from the computer not being able to handle 2000 but are probably the result of the FAA being so far behind but having pressure to appear/promise that they are "ready". There have already been many reports regarding this subject - these folks are willing to walk with picket signs over the issue..... (I know, I know, some people will do ANYTHING....)

Thanks for your input.

-- Kristi (, July 17, 1999.

AND JFK jr.'s plane may have just hit the drink.

-- FLAME AWAY (, July 17, 1999.


You are correct that the old computers were totally obsolete dinosaurs. Were it not for Y2k they would still be running that junk. However, I have read that the "new" computers are also obsolete, but newer obsolete, models. These can be remediated. If you have any evidence that the FAA has bought late model, state of art, equipment please let us know. That would surprise me, since the FAA has always been so far behind the technology currently available. They have the money, just don't have the will to spend it.

-- Gordon (, July 17, 1999.

The Air Traffic Controllers were shown picketing on KING5 (NBC) News last night. Same story as above - FAA saying the Union was using dirty tactics to make the FAA look bad because of labor/contract dispute. Couple of months ago there was a link to the ATCA site with a letter written to the Sanate Y2K Committee saying the FAA was fudging on its reports so apparently they are taking this public now. One really has to wonder at the arrogance of the FAA - amazing.

-- Valkyrie (, July 17, 1999.

From a story in the New York Times, May 7, 1999:

"Henry Brown, an official with the union that represents F.A.A. electronics technicians, said the new system had not been thoroughly checked before it was turned on. 'They rushed this system into service, against our wishes, because they want to say we've got another 40 percent of our equipment Y2K compliant,' he said."

(Quoted in Y2K Progress: Reality Check.)

-- Lane Core Jr. (, July 17, 1999.

Valkyrie, You live around here don't you? PNW Home of the new Safco field. On my mail-list I explained the situation and was screaming about this situation. I will find it and post it here.

-- Cherri (, July 17, 1999. 134 of 815 2:24 PM Thu 29 Oct 98

Subject: Chicago air controllers trade charges with FAA From: Cherri

There is new Y2K compliant software being introduced, but it still has serious problems to work out. Cherri

Chicago air controllers trade charges with FAA

CHICAGO (Reuters) - Air traffic controllers complained Thursday that faulty computer software had recently caused a loss of radar information essential for monitoring planes around Chicago. A spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, which runs the air traffic control system, countered that the software had some ``wrinkles'' that were being ironed out, but that the skies remained safe for air travelers. A controller complained the software, which was installed over the summer in Elgin, Illinois, and three other control centers around the country, contributed to several cases where aircraft had lost ``separation,'' or the minimum distance of three miles horizontally and 1,000 feet vertically between planes. ``The computer tracking system is not as good as the old system, it hasn't been tested, and it contributes on a regular basis to misleading, false information about the aircraft,'' Kurt Granger, a controller at the FAA's Elgin center that monitors planes within a 40-mile radius of Chicago, told Reuters. In one instance on Oct. 23, a plane had to take evasive action to avoid a potential collision apparently after its on-board warning alarm sounded, Granger said. But FAA spokesman Don Zochert said the Oct. 23 incident, which was being investigated, was caused by a controller's error and could not be blamed on the system. ``It's a safe system. It's got some wrinkles that we're ironing out,'' Zochert said. ``As we get to know the software, we're finding a number of differences with the previous system,'' he said. While acknowledging glitches in the software system, Zochert maintained that ``99 percent'' of air traffic problems were caused by controller errors. Continuing consultations with controllers had resolved some problems with the software, which was also being used for control centers near New York City, Denver and Dallas, Zochert said. The system, called the Automated Radar Terminal System III-E 605, is supposed to be immune to any ``Y2K'' problems, or the difficulties associated with computers not being able to read the year 2000. The Elgin facility hands off monitoring of air traffic to controllers at local airports and to another facility in Aurora, Illinois, which handles long-range traffic across several Midwest states. Controllers at the Aurora facility reiterated complaints that they were understaffed, while Zochert contended the facility is fully staffed. ^REUTERS@



The ARTS software has been pulled from Dallas Fort Worth airports and O'Hare in Chicago.

Joe G.


Now as to the compliancy of the old origional (tube technology) computers there is this from last year.

******** ********

Air Traffic Control Computer System Cleared for 2000 IBM Warning Prompted Tests

By Rajiv Chandrasekaran Washington Post Staff Writer Wednesday, July 22, 1998; Page A15

ATLANTIC CITY, N.J.Federal Aviation Administration technicians have concluded that a critical mainframe computer system used in the nation's largest air traffic control centers will function properly in the year 2000, despite warnings from the system's manufacturer that the agency should replace the equipment.


What it boiles down to was IBM said they could not guarentee the computers would work and wanted the FAA to buy "NEW ONES".


The determination, reached over the past few weeks by programmers at the FAA's technical center here, has elicited cheers from agency officials, who had been castigated by congressional investigators earlier this year for not planning a quick replacement of the systems.

"The examination has revealed that the [system] will transition the millennium in a routine manner," FAA Administrator Jane F. Garvey said in an interview yesterday.

The mainframe computers at issue, made by International Business Machines Corp., are used at the FAA's 20 air route traffic control centers to track high-altitude aircraft between airports. The computers, IBM's Model 3083 mainframes, receive data from radar systems and integrate that information into a picture for air traffic controllers. Last October, IBM sent a letter to the FAA warning that "the appropriate skills and tools do not exist to conduct a complete Year 2000 test assessment" of the 3083 computers, once the mainstay of large corporate data centers. The machines have been mothballed by most users, a step IBM urged the FAA to take.

Although the FAA plans to replace the mainframes as part of a broader modernization effort, agency officials were unsure they could complete the process by 2000. As a result, they embarked on an aggressive testing program to figure out how the computer system would be affected. snip Without specialized reprogramming, it was feared that the IBM 3083s would recognize "00" not as 2000 but as 1900, a glitch that could cause them to malfunction. snip To conduct the testing, the FAA hired two retired IBM programmers and assigned a handful of other agency employees to the project, which involved checking more than 40 million lines of "microcode" -- software that controls the mainframe's most basic functions. Among the initial areas of concern was whether a date problem would affect the operation of the mainframe's cooling pumps. If the computer does not regularly switch from one cooling pump to another, it can overheat and shut down, causing controllers' radar screens to go blank.

The technicians, however, found that the microcode doesn't consider the last two digits of the year when processing dates. Instead, it stores the year as a two-digit number between one and 32, assuming that 1975 was year one. As a result, they determined, the system would fail in 2007, but not in 2000. "Nothing we have found will cause an operational aberration over the new year. It will continue to function as it's supposed to," said one FAA technician working on the project.

"We're dealing with minutes and seconds in air traffic control," said another technician. "The systems don't really care about days and years."

The programmers did find four software modules that need to be repaired to handle the leap year in 2000, but they said the task would be relatively straightforward.

While the technicians came to their conclusions a few weeks ago, Garvey only recently was briefed on the findings. The results, sources said, have not yet been shared widely within the Transportation Department or with lawmakers.

Agency officials acknowledge their determination will be met with skepticism on Capitol Hill and in the aviation industry. To bolster their case, the technicians said they have compiled reams of computer printouts that back up their conclusions.

The findings highlight one of the uncertainties of year 2000 repair work. While some projects can be more costly and time consuming than originally expected, others can be unexpectedly simple.

"It's a welcome surprise," Garvey said. "And we don't get many of them in government."


And finally an e-mail from the year2000-discuss list.


Subject: RE: Sighting: FAA ATC Computers Y2K OK! Date: Tue, 28 Jul 1998 11:43:17 +0100 From: "Y2K Maillist (Via: Amy)" Reply-To: To:

Date: Mon, 27 Jul 1998 11:54:26 -0400 From: NATE MURPHY <> Subject: RE: Sighting: FAA ATC Computers Y2K OK! To: ""



Yes, you are a skeptic and unnecessarily so.

The FAA started developing this system over thithy years ago. It went into production in the Los Angeles Airtraffic Control Center in 1972. The National Airspace System(NAS) was developed as a result of several air collisions that occurred in the 1950's. They understand more about the business of air traffic control and air safety than any organization that I am aware of. Believe me, Flight Plans, Departure flights, Tracking and Handoffs to ARTS(departure and landing) are all part of this multiprocessing, continuously operational(24x7) fully recoverable software / fail hardware system. This is a hugh messaging system written with its own priority operating(pre OS/360) and database management system(" DBMS" word not invented yet). This is a time dependent system(not Date Sensitive). Day is only important when it read the daily flight plan tape which is supplied by the airlines.

Believe this, on March 23,1998, Stan Graham,TechBeamers, Bob Nagel and myself met for two hours with Ray Long, the FAA year 2000 manager and his staff. We discussed several alternatives with Ray. Ray's top priority was to analyze the micro code in the 3083's because it was the best alternative for the FAA, and it worked. At the time, we did not feel it would be appropriate to share that information with the group. By the way, it only took twenty lines of code to make the Enroute Air Traffic System year 2000 compliant.

Ray and his staff deserves credit for saving a lot of time and money. They are perfectionist and the airways are much safer because of their technical tenacity.

Nate Murphy Nate Murphy & Associates The Assembler People 609-234-2353


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-- Cherri (, July 17, 1999.

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