THE CLOCK is Ticking



by Jane F. Garvey

December 31, 1998, In 365 days it will be January 1, 2000. Just a few years ago little did the global aviation community realize how much difference a day could make, but today we know more than ever just how much we need to do to get ready for that New Year's Day.   The clock is ticking !

Will the FAA make it? Can we assure that air traffic safety is not compromised in the slightest starting at 12:01 a.m. Greenwich Mean Time on January 1, 2000? The answer is "yes." Aviation safety will not be compromised on that day or any other day. 

I want to bring you up to date on what the FAA is doing to get ready for January 1, 2000. I also want to share some of the lessons we've learned. Throughout this article I will stress the importance and the urgency of dealing with the Y2K-Year 2000-issue in your companies and communities. None of us can solve the Y2K problem by ourselves, but by working together we can solve it at the same time we achieve the less tangible, yet still important, goal of mutual assurance that aviation will operate safely and that capacity will be maintained. 

What the FAA is Doing: I must be candid-the FAA was initially behind in addressing the Y2K issue, but we have energized and accelerated our program. We know that clock is ticking. Ensuring that all FAA computer systems properly recognize the year 2000 is one of my highest priorities.

In February of this year, I changed FAA's approach to the Y2K problem. FAA's Air Traffic Services had developed an approach that involved centralized management, with a clear plan and process. I made that the model for the rest of the agency and created a Year 2000 Program Office reporting directly to me. The Air Traffic Services did not miss a single Y2K deadline. The Y2K Program Office is using the five-phase approach recommended by the U.S. General Accounting Office and the Office of Management and Budget to ensure that all systems are Y2K compliant. The five phases are awareness, assessment, renovation, validation, and implementation. As of January 31, 1998, we completed the second, or assessment phase. This means that each line of code in all 655 systems was examined to determine which ones needed to be fixed in order to be Y2K compliant. Of those, there are 433 mission-critical systems. These include the operational systems that provide airlines with air traffic control and navigation services.

On September 30 of this year, the FAA completed the third, or renovation, phase. All lines of code that needed to be fixed have been fixed. As a result of the renovation phase, all mission-critical systems that required renovation were repaired. Testing and re-testing of renovated systems is the fourth or validation phase, and that will be completed by March 31, 1999. Our validation process tests components and individual systems. In addition to this process of testing the individual systems in the field, we are planning end-to-end tests. An end-to-end test is when you test the interrelationships of systems, not just the individual system itself. This is how the systems operate, and this is how we must test them.

These end-to-end tests will be conducted between our Technical Center in Atlantic City, which can simulate any of our air route traffic control centers, and a test approach control facility in Denver. These end-to-end tests will reinforce our assurance that individual system fixes will not compromise safety. We have also begun staff level meetings with NavCanada to discuss testing between our systems. NavCanada is also discussing testing with the United Kingdom's National Air Traffic Service. The last of the five phases is implementation. Our implementation deadline is June 30, 1999. This is the date by which all FAA systems will be certified and operational as Y2K compliant. The FAA is looking to move the March 31 validation and June 30 implementation deadlines up. As for the Host computer, which drives displays at the nation's 20 en route centers, we are taking a two-track approach. For one, renovation of the Host's lines of code were completed by the end of July 1998, with validation and implementation to follow the timelines for the other systems. At the same time, we are working to replace the Host computer by January 1, 2000.

During this five-phase process, we have a team reviewing contingency plans. We already have contingency plans in place for 20th century issues, such as weather, equipment failures, power or communications outages, and the like, but contingency planning for the 21st century and the Y2K issue presents its own challenges. Spares don't cut itóthey could have their own Y2K bugs. The cost estimate for the entire FAA Y2K effort is $185.6 million. Not factored into this cost estimate are the travel expenses for the trip I plan to take with Ray Long, the director of the FAA's Y2K Program Office, on the evening of December 31, 1999. To celebrate New Year's Eve, we will board a plane shortly before midnight Greenwich Mean Time and fly west through all four continental time zones to demonstrate our confidence to the flying public that the nation's airspace system is safe.

Ray says he expects this to be an utterly normal but deeply satisfying trip. This "midnight ride" leads me to my next point, and that is lessons learned. There are two key lessons. One, Y2K needs leadership from the top. That is where the direction and deadlines must come from. After all, this is a project with a due date that will not slip. Two, in an industry as visible as ours, and one that attracts so much public attention, you need to assure the public that you have the Y2K issue under control. Public perception and confidence is vital to aviation. I want the aviation industry and the public to have the assurance that it will be business as usual on January 1, 2000. The clock is ticking. Three hundred and sixty-five days to goóminus about 15 minutes for reading this article. Y2K is an urgent issue. The FAA has a sense of urgency. We have a clear plan and program, and we have the confidence that we will be ready for January 1, 2000.
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