Information Technology Column

April 8, 1999

Information Technology

By Monica L. Rausch Associate Editor

May 1999

Monica L. Rausch Associate Editor
2k still haunts airports... There's good news and bad news on the Y2K computer glitch front. The good news: One third of 334 airports surveyed by the U.S. General Accounting Office will be Y2K-ready by FAA's recommended deadline of June 30, 1999. Another one third say they won't be ready but have contingency plans in place. The bad news: The final one-third, including nine of the nation's 50 major airports, will neither meet FAA's recommended deadline nor have contingency plans if core systems shut down.

Many people both in and outside the aviation industry believe issues surrounding the Y2K date-related computer bug have been beaten to death, but even those who believe the effects of the glitch are overblown — that banks won't shut down or elevators won't halt mid-floor — admit that it is a valid problem, and computer systems must be checked and repaired or replaced.

In a report titled "Year 2000 Computing Crisis: Status of Airports' Efforts to Deal with Date Change Problem," GAO states, "Officials at airports and FAA agreed that adequate safeguards are in place to ensure the safety and security of the National Airspace System before and after the Year 2000 date change. However, airports that do not meet FAA's June 1999 recommended preparation date are at increased risk of experiencing some equipment malfunctions."

So even if safety is assured (and Administrator Garvey completes her New Year's Eve flight without mishap) the efficiency of NAS is still at risk. Those relying on contingency plans — or crossed fingers — may be replacing automated procedures halted by Y2K with manual procedures, which take longer, especially when done by employees not trained in these operations. An airport's ability to handle its normal passenger load could be impacted, GAO states, and in the end, cause delays that ripple though the entire system.

In fact, some one-half of the airports surveyed by GAO reported not having a written Year 2000 program plan. The basic plan for a Y2K program should include, according to GAO, schedules for phases of the program, an assessment of repair options, assignment of conversion or replacement projects, a risk assessment of system and equipment vulnerabilities to the year 2000, and contingency plans. GAO also offers "Year 2000 Computing Crisis: An Assessment Guide" which offers a structured approach to and assessing an organization's Y2K readiness.

This report along with all other GAO reports can be ordered by calling (202) 512-6000 or visiting GAO's website at

Airport travelers take trips on the internet
In the gate areas at airports, open laptop computers are as common as newspapers, magazines, and novels. Airports wanting to keep up with the computer age would do well to offer travelers a quiet place where they can take their laptops off their laps and even hook up to the Internet

One company, Laptop Lane, is already taking advantage of this need and offering a retail outlet. Customers "rent" a room complete with an extra fast, heavy-duty modem, fax, and computer (in case they haven't brought their own). Another option is using kiosks, offered by companies like MontegoNet Solutions, which can also be used as FIDS or for advertisement displays.

If you have information technology issues you would like addressed in this column, call Monica Rausch at (920) 563-1648 or e-mail to [email protected]