The FAA's Year 2000 Problem

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Today we conclude our two-part report on air travel and the Y2K computer bug. Yesterday's installment detailed the FAA's slow progress upgrading 20-year-old IBM mainframe computers that make up most of the air traffic control system.

If the IBM 3083 and the field testing problems aren't enough to keep the FAA project managers (and the rest of us) up at night, there is more interesting news: The whole thing might crash anyway. TIME Digital went to some Y2K consulting firms for a second opinion about the FAA's Y2K challenges. These are the people in the business of converting large-scale corporate computer systems, and they've got the experience dealing with Y2K problems of this magnitude.

Asked about the FAA's situation, one high-ranking industry insider confided, "It is impossible for any business or organization to be completely Y2K-compliant. Our computer systems are so interconnected, both directly and through the basic infrastructure, that no one can isolate themselves from the problem." The pros, in other words, are not trying to solve the problem so much as contain it. But that's not good enough for the FAA. MORE>>