Good Morning. My name is Mark Dunlap. I am an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist at
Bradley International Airport and a representative of the Professional Airways Systems
Specialists (PASS). Thank you for inviting PASS to testify today on the potential impact of the
Year 2000 on the computer systems of the National Airspace System (NAS). PASS provides
exclusive representation for over 10,000 Systems Specialists, Flight Inspection Pilots, Aviation
Safety Inspectors, and Safety Support Staff employed by the FAA. 'Me services that PASS
members perform range from systems maintenance, installation and certification to aviation and
I work for a division of the FAA called Airway Facilities. Our mission is to provide public
service to the nation by ensuring the safe and efficient operation of the National Airspace
System. Airway Facilities employs fewer than 6,000 Systems Specialists who provide hands-on
maintenance and certification for over 40,000 FAA facilities and equipment for the entire NAS.
As an Airway Transportation Systems Specialist, my areas of expertise are hardware and
software systems, technical programs and planning, telecommunications, and computer systems.
My duties include engineering assistance, technical inspections, and facility performance
While the year 2000 (or Y2K as it is commonly known) problem is limited for most agencies to systems that perform functions like payroll processing or accounting, the FAA's problem is quite different. PASS Systems Specialists rely on automated systems to maintain the safety and integrity of the NAS. If the Y2K problem goes unresolved, it would severely impact the ability of these Systems Specialists to do their jobs. Due to the complex web of interlocking computer systems such as air traffic control and radar systems, the FAA cannot afford to take chances with the lives of flying passengers,
A significant number of its computer-based "mission critical" systems may be adversely affected
by the Y2K date change, including those systems supporting surveillance, navigation, enroute
terminal, oceanic, and traffic flow management automation. On January 1, 2000, the data-handling capabilities of most automated systems will become questionable, having been
programmed to read "00" as 1900 instead of 2000. One very large example of the FAA's
potential Y2K problem is the HOST computer systems at its Air Route Traffic Control Centers
(ARTCC). HOST computers tie all 20 air traffic control centers throughout the country together,
analyzing and collating radar data for the air traffic control system. The HOST computer is also
a critical component for the backup radar source for Terminal Approach Facilities such as
Bradley International Airport. The FAA has known for at least two years that its 1970's-vintage
IBM 3083 HOST computers would become suspect after midnight on December 31, 1999. The
Y2K threat exists in the HOST microcode, which is used to control the inner processes of the
computer. While initial testing has been done, the FAA has not confirmed how much of the
threat is real, and whether or not it is correctable. If problems with the microcode are found,
IBM has said that it would make its best effort to correct the problem, but would not guarantee
that all effors are found and corrected. In other words, if we use this microcode beyond
December 3 1, 1999, the FAA would not be guaranteed that the Y2K problem was resolved. But
the problem goes far beyond the HOST. Every system in the NAS must be made Y2K compliant
because they all interface. If even one system generates erroneous data, it could have serious
implications on all other systems with which it interacts, and therefore jeopardize the safety of
the flying public.
Potential Local Problems
Many of the navigational and surveillance systems at Bradley International Airport have
microprocessor interface or control systems. Without specialized reprogramming, the systems
will recognize "00" not as the year 2000 but as the year 1900. This glitch could cause the
computers either to stop working altogether or to generate erroneous data. If this problem is not
corrected, data flow and operations may be severely hampered. If these systems fail, or if the
interfaces are incompatible, radars may not be able to display accurate data (or any data at all for
that matter) - effectively removing the controllers' visual contact with aircraft.
There are several other areas of concern, one of which is alarm menus. These important trouble-shooting aids are time-stamped, and any loss of this information could seriously impede the
progress of preventive or corrective maintenance. Another area of concern is the Tandem
systems located at each ARTCC. 'Me Tandem runs software called Maintenance Management
System (MMS), which maintains official records of equipment performance, certification, and
maintenance. These records are used by the National Transportation Safety Board if there is any
incident or accident involving aircraft in the NAS.
The Tandem system also runs the Remote Maintenance Monitor System (RMMS), the same
computer system that many in the banking industry use because of its ability to manage large
amounts of data without losing data even if the system crashes. The RMMS allows personnel at
centralized Maintenance Control Centers to monitor systems at unmanned sites for situations that
could impede equipment operation. This system is also vulnerable to the Y2K changeover.
Precious time has gone by, and the real experts on these systems have not been consulted.
Airway Transportation Systems Specialists have not been asked to help identify these problems
with the NAS, much less to resolve them. The FAA has chosen to look for solutions to many of
its Y2K problems without input from PASS.
The FAA's Y2K problem is of critical importance. If it is not completely resolved, the entire NAS could collapse. The FAA says it expects to meet the November 1, 1999 deadline - only two months prior to the crucial date - for ensuring that all its software, hardware, and firmware are
Y2K compliant. Given the agency's track record with Advanced Automation System and other
modernization efforts, PASS believes it is unlikely the deadline will be met - especially since the
FAA does not even have funding allocated. Not only do all of the pieces of the NAS need to be
made Y2K compliant; they also need to be tested under all conditions to ensure that they can
"talk" to each other. This will take a significant amount of operational time. Establishing a Y2K
office in Washington, with or without funding, is not going to fix this enormous problem. 'Mere
are nearly 6,000 Systems Specialists across the country whose expertise is being ignored instead
of applied toward resolving this problem.
Absent a complete resolution of the Y2K problem, a contingency plan must be established to
prepare air traffic controllers to maintain air safety without the use of automated data services.
Senator Dodd, thank you again for inviting PASS to testify on this very critical problem.
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