FAA passes major Y2K milestone

The US Federal Aviation Administration said it passed a crucial test this weekend in its effort to ensure air traffic control systems will be compliant for the year 2000.

On Saturday, the FAA rolled the clocks forward to December 31 on the air traffic control system, which oversees radar, weather and flight data, at the Denver International Airport, said Paul Takemoto, a spokesman at the Washington-based agency. The primary system was "split," allowing half of the system to "stay live" while the other half underwent testing for year 2000 compliance for four hours, Takemoto said. The off-line part of the system was "completely firewalled" and didn't handle any traffic as officials monitored it, he added.

"Nothing seemed to be out of the ordinary" in the initial findings, Takemoto said. The results were sent to Atlantic City for further testing, and the FAA doesn't expect any further problems to show up, he said. The FAA had previously tested the system four times, building on each test before it, Takemoto added.

The FAA has attracted its share of criticism over year 2000 compliance, including its failure to make the March 31 deadline set by the General Accounting Office. Instead, the FAA set its own deadline of June 30 to ensure its system will be ready for the changeover, Takemoto said. It wasn't "realistic" to meet the March 31 deadline "without compromising safety" and "the complexity of the nation's airspace," he said.

Although one analyst saw it as "reassuring," last weekend's test had some drawbacks, according to Andy Bochman, an analyst at Aberdeen Group Inc. While it shows the FAA is on track, the test was done at "one of the FAA's newest airports with new equipment," and people should look at the results with a "major grain of salt," Bochman said.

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