Yes, it will be safe to fly on Jan. 1, 2000. The FAA has a comprehensive and focused plan in place to ensure that its computer systems will properly recognize the Year 2000.
To date, the FAA has successfully renovated, tested and certified all air traffic control computer systems, both mission critical and non-mission critical. All FAA systems were certified and implemented as Y2K compliant as of June 30, 1999. These systems include software that controls radar, navigation and communications systems used by the FAA.
The Y2K Problem
The Y2K problem is simple in nature. Essentially, many date-dependent computer systems have assigned only two digits for the year, so that 1998 becomes 98. The "19" is assumed. This means that the rollover to the year 2000 will be understood by the computer to be 1900, and may be interpreted by the computer as an error.
The FAA has a massive and comprehensive effort underway to get all of its systems to properly recognize the year 2000. This effort has included a successful live end-to-end test on April 10 in Denver of multiple air traffic computer systems. Preliminary data indicates that the computers handled the rollover to the simulated Year 2000 safely and without incident.
What's Out There?
The FAA has a total of 636 computer systems. Of these, 151 required renovation and/or changes.
In order to get its systems Y2K compliant, the FAA has adopted the five-phase approach recommended by the General Accounting Office and the Office of Management and Budget for all federal agencies. The five phases are: awareness, assessment, renovation, validation and implementation.
The FAA has just completed the fifth and final phase — implementation. This simply means that the lines of code have been renovated and tested, and the fixes have been made to each targeted computer program. As of June 30, 100 percent of the FAA's computer systems had been certified Y2K compliant, well ahead of the ultimate deadline on Dec. 31, 1999.
At the Airports
The FAA issues operational safety certificates to 556 U.S. airports that provide commercial air service. Of these 556 airports, 141 are classified as hub airports and these hubs carry 92 percent of all enplaned passengers. Airports holding FAA certificates were asked to submit data regarding their Y2K status by June 30.
FAA personnel are working closely with airport management and representative associations, including the American Association of Airport Executives (AAAE) and the Airports Council International-North America (ACI). In addition, the FAA has begun airport site visits. Visits to the top 150 U.S. airports were completed on August 1.
In the International Arena
The FAA has taken a leading role in helping foreign governments make sure that their air t traffic control systems are Y2K compliant. At the ICAO General Assembly in Montreal last fall, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey introduced two resolutions addressing the Y2K situation in the international arena. The ICAO adopted both resolutions. Under the first, ICAO issued Y2K assessment criteria for its member states. Under the second, ICAO member states gave notice, based on that criterion, on the status of their Y2K readiness on July 1, 1999.
The FAA has no authority over foreign airspace or foreign air traffic control systems. It is likely that some type of notice will be given to passengers departing the U.S. for foreign countries on the Y2K status of those countries, but the form and timing of that notice has not been determined. The State Department is likely to be involved. More on foreign compliance may be four on this web site: www.dot.gov/fly2k/.
What's the Cost?
The entire FAA Y2K effort will cost an estimated $185.6 million for the fiscal year 1999, and $340 million for the entire four-year effort (1997 through 2000).