ATA's survey shows most airports will be ready for the new millennium
BY Monica L. Rausch, Associate Editor
January / February 1999
Managers of information technology at airports were queried, management plans probed, data tabulated, and now the results are in: Airports are on the right track in addressing Y2K, a computer glitch resulting from recording dates in the year 2000 and beyond. That's the word from Tom Browne, executive director of the Year 2000 project for the Air Transport Association.
"If tomorrow was the year 2000, would everything be ready? No, but there's a year to go — I do believe that we will have a system that is operating at or near full capacity on January 1, 2000," says Browne. "There's no doubt that there will be some failures somewhere along the line, but it's not going to be something that's going to bring the system to its knees.
"If you look at program plans all the way across the board, everybody is saying — they're going to be done with the actual remediation work sometime in the first or second quarter of next year and that testing will continue through the remainder of the year. That's generally the theme that you'll see no matter where you go."
Browne spent most of the past year gathering information for members of his association on where airports stand in addressing Y2K problems. His investigation included site visits to 158 airports in the U.S. and 15 in Canada, plus compiling surveys sent to "most of the rest of the commercial service airport world," says Browne.
"The reason we collected it was to give the airlines a tool for determining where they need to focus their efforts in terms of business continuity," notes Browne. "Along the way we discovered, as we suspected, a very high degree of commonality among systems, both between airline ownership and airport ownership, so we're making those commonality assessments available so that some common testing and remediation can be undertaken as well."
Here, Browne shares other discoveries made on his fact-finding mission: Airports developing Y2K programs have some challenges to face, while FAA makes headway on fixing the glitch.
More than a Myth
Airports, and industry as a whole, have come a long way in attacking Y2K, notes Browne. Y2K has metamorphasized; once dismissed as an issue played up by the media and information technology gurus, it is now serious enough to earn a spot in the budget of government agencies and businesses alike.
"A year ago there were a lot of people still in denial, there were airlines, airports, and people within every walk of every industry that were still questioning whether (Y2K) was really an issue," says Browne. "I think through the efforts of trade associations like ATA and the airport trade associations, the awareness has certainly grown, and I think that for the most part people are responding the way they need to."
Obstacles to Overcome
Taking care of Y2K is proving difficult at some airports, Browne discovered, because of local governmental red tape.
"Some airports are experiencing problems — not because they don't want to do something, but because they have such huge procurement regulations to get through that they're having trouble procuring the resources they need. But we're trying to work with them and get over those humps as well. It's not so much that somebody doesn't want to do anything (about Y2K); it's that it takes them a long time to get through some of this stuff," notes Browne.
Other roadblocks are coming from the information technology suppliers, notes Browne. "The biggest problem was not really a surprise, and that was that airports are having as much difficulty getting answers from vendors and suppliers as airlines are."
However, answers should come more quickly now that Congress passed "Good Samaritan" legislation, says Browne. The legislation "basically allows entities to share year 2000 information without fear of lawsuit," untying the hands of airports and airlines and allowing them to take advantage of the commonality in their systems.
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