FAA calls Y2K test a success

The Federal Aviation Administration last week declared that air traffic control systems will successfully transition to Jan. 1, 2000, based on initial results of an end-to-end test at Denver International Airport.

The test, which took place April 10-11, included tracking live air traffic with some computer clocks set forward to Dec. 31, 1999, and then rolling over to Jan. 1, 2000. The primary systems in Denver were "split" so that the test systems, which were set forward, and the live systems did not interact. The systems that operated in test mode were not used to manage air traffic.

"A preliminary analysis of this data shows the performance of the systems on both sides was virtually identical," said Jane Garvey, FAA administrator. "This shows us the systems will perform on Jan. 1, 2000, just as they did on Dec. 31, 1999."

During the test, the FAA plotted the route of a United Airlines flight and recorded the data from the live and the test systems located at the Denver Terminal Radar Approach Control (Tracon) facility and the en route center in Longmont, Colo. The agency overlaid the data from each system and found it to be identical.

"This was a key component of the test," said Ray Long, director of the FAA's Year 2000 program office. "The data is a perfect match." The FAA did not find any unresolved date-related issues, Long added.

In addition, the FAA said it successfully processed 453 flight plans at the Longmont en route center and tracked 51 aircraft at the Denver Tracon during the duration of the test. The test involved en route and terminal systems located throughout Colorado, including the host computer, which processes radar surveillance data and flight plans. The test also involved automated radar and beacon tracking systems and telecommunications and weather systems.

Because every air traffic control system used in the country was in use during the Denver test, the FAA does not need to conduct separate tests for each system, Long said. The Denver test illustrated that systems will work on a national level after Dec. 31, 1999, he said. The test involved 108 FAA employees.

The test "should go a long way to ensure the traveling public that the system will work in the Year 2000," said Thomas Browne, executive director of the Aviation Millennium Project, a Year 2000 group made up of the largest U.S. and Canadian airlines and managed by the Air Transport Association.

With a budget of $16 million, the Aviation Millennium Project is working with airports, suppliers, manufacturers and air traffic control systems to ensure that they will be ready for the Year 2000. "The FAA is doing a good job," Browne said. "If it weren't, the airline industry would be" the first to criticize, he said.

Rick Juster, Year 2000 manager at United Airlines, said the test "reinforces our confidence" in the FAA's ability to operate air traffic control systems in the Year 2000.

Although the FAA considers the test a success, the General Accounting Office, the Transportation Department's inspector general, and the FAA must still validate the results, Long said.

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