Technicians: Flight delays maybe linked to Y2k glitch : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

Technicians: Flight delays may be linked to Y2K glitch by Laura Brown

Wednesday, January 5, 2000

The Federal Aviation Administration yesterday insisted that a 2-hour Monday night air traffic computer glitch was not Y2K-related, but technicians who fix the equipment are not so sure.

``We don't believe they can eliminate Y2K as a possibility,'' said Tom Demske, regional vice president for the Professional Airways Systems Specialists, the union representing the workers who fix and maintain the FAA's computer equipment.

Air traffic controllers at the FAA's regional facility in Nashua, N.H., were forced to resort to a back-up system from 7:08 p.m. to 9:40 p.m. Monday, triggering delays of up to 90 minutes for planes coming into Logan and shorter waits at other airports in the region.

A computer part called a logical disk drive assembly failed that morning between 6:30 and 7, said FAA spokesman Jim Peters.

Technicians took the part out of service, isolated the problem and brought in a new part, which was scheduled to be installed at 10 p.m., Peters said.

But just after 7 p.m., the computer overrode a previous command and ``brought the failed part back on line,'' he added. As a precaution, technicians shut down the system and installed the new disk drive.

The timing of the failures around the 7 a.m. and 7 p.m. times raised suspicions among PASS members, who last week revealed the FAA had ordered a last-minute software patch to be installed that would take care of the Y2K rollover when the computers were forced to restart.

They were suspicious first because the FAA's computers are tied to Greenwich Mean Time, which hits midnight - changing the date - at 7 p.m. Eastern Time. But second, the failure occurred in the same equipment in which the last-minute software patch was installed.

``It's a bit coincidental, but I can't say if it is or isn't related to the patch from last week,'' said Luke Drake, a PASS assistant regional vice president.

Other technicians suggested that in the rush to install the patch last week, it was never tested properly.

The FAA's Peters pointed out that the failure did not occur anywhere else in the country. ``As far as I know there was no indication of any safety problems,'' he said.

About 125 planes were delayed as the FAA's national center in Herndon, Va., increased separations between planes and rerouted some international flights, Peters said.

Controllers maintained radio contact with pilots and relied on a back-up system that records flight information on slips of paper.

-- Homer Beanfang (, January 05, 2000


"A computer part called a logical disk drive assembly failed that morning between 6:30 and 7, said FAA spokesman Jim Peters. "


Isn't a logical disk assembly kind of a contradiction in terms? In the PC world, a logical disk is an imaginary partition on a physical disk, but is not actually a "thing" that is replaced. Either he has his terms mixed up and means the physical disk, or the air traffic world and the PC world are, well, different worlds.

-- huh? (huh@huh.huh), January 05, 2000.


Just keep providing the links and I'll keep reading sir. More and more failures are appearing BEFORE weekly, monthly, quarterly "backroom" processing. This isn't a date problem as the media and government is fixated on. It's a data information problem.

-- PJC (, January 05, 2000.

So glad Homer is here... like clockwork.



-- Diane J. Squire (, January 05, 2000.

Sounds like a bad fix that worked for the first turnovers (Friday-Saturaday-Sunday) but failed on later ones.

Typical in hurry-up cases. I'd go with the "technicians" on this one. Or do you to try the next 7:00 pm flight from Logan?

-- Robert A Cook, PE (Marietta, GA) (, January 05, 2000.

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