The Monterey Airport wings into the new millennium.
Thursday, February 25, 1999
So what if your microwave or automobile show signs of the millennium bug? But what if the airplane you are in--or the control tower guiding your plane homeward--on Jan. 1, 2000 is infected? According to Dennis Horn, general manager of the Monterey Peninsula Airport District (MPAD), any traveler celebrating the new millennium in his airport or in the air coming to his airport has nothing to worry about.
Horn first learned about the Y2K problem a few years ago and assembled a team to identify a course of action. Last year, he hired a private consultant to perform a site survey that identified any systems that could potentially contain embedded microchips and any that did not comply as functional systems.
"We''ll be OK," says Horn. "Nothing life-threatening or catastrophic will happen." He has pinpointed where problems might occur and realizes that, "anything that has a clock translated to a date has to be worked with."
Three entities have a role to play in exterminating any bugs in the airport system: the Monterey Peninsula Airport District, the individual airlines (including private jets), and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). Horn says he has confidence in the collaborated efforts of the MPAD and, in light of the amount of flight reservations that have already been made for the year 2000, so does the general public. If Horn happens to be on a plane at midnight, Jan. 1, 2000, he says, "I would have no qualms about being on a flight."
MPAD has taken specific, organized actions by establishing a responsible office; analyzing elements that are potential Y2K problems; checking off problems and implementing fixes, and making sure the phone company follows up. However, Horn says, "I would not be surprised if there are a few minor residual problems."
The total cost of the entire project breaks in at roughly $50,000-$75,000, including a Y2K compliance consultant who evaluated problems and recommended other minor adjustments. Recently, the MPAD installed a new, upgraded computer system, but Horn says he includes that expense as part of regular maintenance.
Air traffic control at MPAD is run by the Federal Aviation Administration. Anything that might go wrong in the tower can be handled manually, says Horn, but would be dramatically slowed. If there was a failure with air traffic control, an airplane would have to wait for flight clearance. "The airplane would not take off. There would be a lot of unhappy, but very alive people," Horn says. "The air traffic controller wouldn''t do anything unsafe."
After creating a system of inventory and completing the site survey, the only high-risk system found was the phones. "The telephone company is working on adjusting some software and hardware changes," Horn notes. Just in case you still have any worries, call your ride on Dec. 31, 1999 to be sure they can pick you up. In addition, some of the computer systems will need to have their motherboards replaced.
The airlines are not monitored by MPAD, but are monitored by a higher power--the FAA. The FAA is responsible for its own systems and computers. Jane F. Garvey, FAA administrator, reassured a U.S. House of Representives joint committee last September that aviation safety will not be compromised on Jan. 1, 2000. According to her report, the teams in the field assessed every system in the FAA--not just "mission-critical systems," but every system. The second phase is the validation, or testing of individual components and systems. The FAA plans to run comprehensive end-to-end tests, testing the interrelationships of systems and whether individual fixes of components will work together as one unit. The tests can simulate any air traffic control center and will be conducted at their Technical Center in Atlantic City. The FAA is scheduled to have the majority of their systems compliant within the Department of Transportation (DOT) and Office of Management and Budget (OMB) deadlines of March 31, 1999. All FAA systems are to be fully compliant by the end of June 1999.
The FAA contracted Pricewaterhouse-Coopers to manage and oversee this project. In addition, they briefed the National Air Traffic Controllers Association (NATCA), the Professional Airways Systems Specialists (PASS), and the National Association of Air Traffic Specialists (NAATS) on their Y2K efforts.
In short, according to air travel experts, everyone has worked hard on this project and anticipates a smooth transition on Jan. 1, 2000. It seems that the worst thing that could happen is that someone might have to spend another night in Monterey. cw