Air traffic control rolls through Zulu time

The nation's air traffic control systems survived their first test for processing dates in the Year 2000, rolling over successfully at 7 p.m. EST today—midnight, Zulu time.

Zulu time corresponds to Greenwich Mean Time, the time to which many computer clocks around the world are set.

The successful rollover comes a day after the Federal Aviation Administration began a rush project to fix a late-detected Year 2000 software problem at the 21 en route air traffic control centers. Officials at the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS) union, which represents workers who install and maintain air traffic control equipment, said on Thursday that the problem would jeopardize air safety if left unfixed.

Specifically, the problem might have resulted in the loss of flight plan data and tracking information, "causing air traffic controllers to lose data from their screen and endangering passengers lives," according to PASS.

FAA Administrator Jane Garvey tested the compliance of the nation's air traffic control systems today by flying from Washington, D.C.'s Reagan National Airport to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.

An FAA announcement this evening, meanwhile, indicated that air traffic should decline during the course of the night. About 3,000 aircraft were inside U.S. airspace at about 5:30 p.m., according to the announcement.

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