CongressLine - Y2K and the Federal Aviation Administration

By Carol M. Morrissey, Published on December 15, 1998

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

The FAA in particular has been raked over the coals since the General Accounting Office (GAO) issued a report in January, 1998 entitled, FAA Computer Systems, Limited Progress on Year 2000 Issue Increases Risk Dramatically.  The report exposed the failings of the FAA for all to see. The agency, at that time, was so woefully behind schedule that they were simply not prepared to meet the March 1999 full compliance deadline which had been mandated for all federal government agencies. As a result of the ensuing panic, Jane Garvey, the Administrator of the FAA, and members of her Administration, were called several times over the course of 1998 to appear before House and Senate subcommittees to provide a detailed accounting of the agencies Y2K progress.

Hill Testimony

At the first hearing held in February, the Administrator freely admitted the FAA's failure and pledged to adopt the five-phase approach recommended by the GAO for identifying and fixing Y2K date-related software issues (the phases are awareness, assessment, renovation, validation, and implementation). (Please go to http://www.faa.gov/apa/testimony/0204tejg.htm for Jane Garvey's prepared statement.) Other issues that surfaced during the series of hearings that followed were the need for additional monies to assist the FAA and the aviation industry, especially smaller airports, to properly address the Y2K problem as well as the Y2K readiness of the "host" computer system which radar controllers use to monitor high-altitude air traffic across the United States.

FAA Computer Systems, Limited Progress on Year 2000 Issues Increases Risk Dramatically

Statement by Jane Garvey, Administrator of the FAA

Testimony of the President of the Air Transport Association


Jane Garvey's remarks at the ATA Annual Meeting in June

Jane Garvey's remarks at the ICAO Assembly in September 1998

National Air Traffic Controllers Association Y2K Contingency Plan


The FAA has made considerable strides towards compliance and they now report that they will be ready six months before the new millennium. Much of this incredible turn-around can be attributed to Ray Long, the retired IBM programmer who the FAA hired in July 1998 to be the FAA Year 2000 Project Director. In fact, to indicate their complete confidence in the system, he and Jane Garvey plan to be flying across country as we ring in the new millennium! (For the testimony delivered at the March, August and September hearings, please go to: http://www.faa.gov/apa/testimony/031098tejg.htm, http://www.faa.gov/apa/testimony/80698tedd.htm and http://www.faa.gov/apa/testimony/9298tejg.htm. The testimony of the President of the Air Transport Association (ATA), Carol Hallett, at the September hearing can be accessed at: http://www.air-transport.org/press/1998/98-055.htm.)

Global Problem

Although the FAA has been concentrating on a domestic agenda, it is clear that they must also be concerned with the Y2K status of the international community. To that end, Jane Garvey appeared at the International Air Transport Association Annual (IATA) Meeting in June and the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) Assembly in September of 1998 to address the global aviation community on Year 2000 issues. (For the Administrator's prepared remarks, please go to: http://www.faa.gov/apa/Speeches/6898spjg.html and http://www.faa.gov/apa/Speeches/92298spjg.htm.)

However, not everyone is satisfied. One organization that has a great stake in the FAA’s Y2K progress is the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA). The NATCA is skeptical that the FAA has prepared for every contingency come the Year 2000 and would like a greater voice in the FAA's plans. The Association has published a Y2K Contingency Plan (which can be accessed at: http://home.natca.org/natca/publicsafety/faay2k.html) which delineates a detailed contingency plan, as well as an excellent time line of events concerning air traffic safety and the Y2k problem.

The Administrator made two proposals to the members of the ICAO concerning Y2K preparedness. The United States requested that member countries report their compliance progress to the ICAO by June of 1999 and that member countries institute standard procedures for assessing and implementing date-related software deficiencies. The United States has stated that they will terminate air traffic with countries who can not demonstrate a sufficient level of compliance and the ICAO will issue travel advisories warning travelers to avoid certain airlines or countries. (The ICAO Year 2000 Web site is at http://www.icao.org/y2k/ and their Year 2000 Action Plan is at http://www.icao.org/y2k/actionplan.html. The IATA Year 2000 page is at http://www.iata.org/y2k/index.htm. From this page you can access information on their Year 2000 Project and Year 2000 Internal Program.)

Judgment Day

Reports, surveys, report cards and charts will continue to appear - analyzing, assessing and dissecting the Y2K readiness of our country, our agencies and the international community. However, the proof is in the pudding (a little holiday cliche) and only the arrival of January 1, 2000 will signal what works and what does not.   Please see the following sites for further aviation-related Y2K information: The Eurocontrol homepage at http://www.eurocontrol.be/projects/eatchip/y2k/intro.html and the American Association of Airport Executives homepage at http://www.airportnet.org/depts/regaff/year2k/. Also, go to http://www.airportnet.org/depts//regaff/year2k/reports.htm for a list of Y2K related GAO reports.

ICAO Year 2000 Web site

ICAO Year 2000 Action Plan

IATA Year 2000 Web site

Eurocontrol Web site

American Association of Airport Executives

Y2K GAO related reports