FAA says it's on track to solve Y2K problem

FAA says it's on track to solve Y2K problem

After a slow start in addressing its Y2K computer problems, the Federal Aviation Administration is on schedule to have the entire air traffic control system fixed and tested by June 30, according to testimony Monday by FAA officials and government inspectors general.

Testifying before the House Government Reform Government Management, Information and Technology Subcommittee, Joel Willemssen, director of civil agencies information systems at the General Accounting Office, said the FAA has made "substantial progress," but "much work remains to be done in a limited amount of time."

Through March 8, the FAA implemented changes to 58 of the 199 systems that need fixing. Another 74 systems are expected to be completed by March 31, and the remaining 67 by June 30, Willemssen said.

Of the 26 critical systems posing the greatest safety risks, five still have not been validated as being Y2K-proof. While the goal for completion is June 30, Willemssen said new problems are expected to arise because of the complexity of the task, and that a couple more months may be needed to work out those bugs.

Transportation Department Inspector General Kenneth Mead gave a similar assessment of all transportation systems, saying the Coast Guard computer systems will take the longest to complete, possibly until October.

Deputy Transportation Secretary Mortimer Downey and FAA Administrator Jane Garvey gave more upbeat assessments, saying they are confident all problems will be fixed by June 30. But Willemssen and Mead said they still have questions about the FAA's contingency plans if there is a Y2K failure, especially if there is a failure outside the FAA system-such as a power outage by utilities or a telecommunications shutdown by phone companies.

Mead said the FAA also needs more planning cooperation from union workers, who would have to operate any of the contingency plans.

Perhaps the biggest challenge for aviation safety is the Y2K condition of computers in foreign countries. Garvey said a July 1 meeting of the International Civil Aviation Organization will give U.S. officials a better view of the Y2K problem. Downey said the United States likely will issue travel advisories to warn Americans of countries or airlines that may not be Y2K compliant, and may prohibit U.S. carriers from flying to those countries.