Wednesday, December 15, 1999

Aviation officials
in Hawaii offer
Y2K reassurance

An air travel exec says his
group has spent $16 million
to prepare for millennium snafus

By Russ Lynch


Aviation officials say Hawaii's airlines and airports are ready to deal with any Y2K glitches but they believe the chances that any will appear at midnight Dec. 31 are extremely small.

The airports actually have been ready since June, said Jerry Matsuda, state airports administrator.

Matsuda told a news conference at Honolulu Airport yesterday that a partnership of state officials, the Air Transport Association, airlines, the Federal Aviation Administration and airport vendors, suppliers and maintenance people have made the statewide system "Y2K ready."

That is true nationally, said Ed Merlis, senior vice president of the ATA, whose members are the airlines.

Merlis also is a spokesman for ATA's Aviation Millennium Project, which has spent $16 million to prepare the United States and Canada for any problems arising from the possibility that aviation computers will malfunction on or after Jan. 1.

The so-called Y2K computer bug arises from fears that computer programs that use a two-digit designation for the year -- for example, "99" for 1999 -- will misread the "00" as 1900 instead of 2000 and malfunction or crash.

The ATA's Aviation Millennium project has worked with 102 airlines, more than 500 airports, air traffic controllers throughout North America, and suppliers and manufacturers involved in aviation to make sure nothing goes wrong, Merlis said.

After the news conference, Merlis summed up the results of the cooperative effort in two words: "We're ready."

Matsuda said the worst-case scenario would be a failure of landing lights at or after midnight on airport runways.

"We have contingency plans. We'll have our maintenance staff on duty," Matsuda said. Ample spare parts will be on hand to replace anything that goes wrong, in the unlikely event that happens, Matsuda said.

The second-worst case involves security and safety at the airports, he said, adding that the state airports system has plans for ample coverage to make sure that is not a problem.

The state has spent some $4.3 million over the last two years upgrading airport computers and support systems, Matsuda said.

Thomas A. Rea, Pacific representative of the Federal Aviation Administration, also said the FAA has no Y2K worries.

"We have the highest level of confidence in the system. We've had that since June when we did live testing and found all systems are go," Rea said.

Since then the FAA has been making sure its communications and navigation systems continue to be Y2K ready and concentrating on the No.1 issue, safety, he said.

Hawaiian Airlines Inc. said it has spent more than $10 million over the last two years to make sure it is Y2K compliant and has contingency plans for every part of its operations.

Aloha Airlines said it is also confident of compliance, adding that it won't be at risk anyway since all its passenger aircraft will be on the ground by 10 p.m. New Year's Eve, their normal schedule, and won't fly again until next morning.

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