Y2K
Talking Point
 
Aviation: 100% in the UK (little risk of material disruption), mixed overseas.

To fly or not to fly is still one of the central questions surrounding the millennium bug.

In October the UK aviation industry was declared fully prepared for the millennium bug under Action 2000 guidelines.

All sectors were assessed and contingency plans set up. Safety was the main priority.The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) also assessed the readiness for business as usual, looking at key companies and the National Air Traffic Services.

Both the safety assessments and business as usual assessments were first carried out through questionnaires sent to the companies themselves, then followed by independent assessment. Safety assessments were carried out to standards set by the Health and Safety Executive.

But this is unlikely to put everyone's minds at rest. Despite safety assurances an Olympic-sized ice rink close to Heathrow Airport has been set aside as an emergency mortuary in the event of a major disaster over the New Year.

Slough Borough Council has initiated the plan. A spokesperson for Heathrow has said the airport is fully prepared for the millennium bug and that precautions by the council were a matter for them.

Not just the UK

The world airline association IATA has been compiling information from more than 1,100 airports and 175 air traffic providers world-wide and is confident that airlines that choose to do so should be able to operate normal year-end time tables.

A global Year 2000 report by the world aviation governmental body ICAO, which represents 185 countries, has also concluded that international aviation is on track for compliance.

It was announced in October that worldwide contingency plans for air traffic control will act as a back-up should there be any unexpected Year 2000 failures. The Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions has been compiling information on individual countries and under its usual powers it can refuse to issue, or withdraw permits, to overseas based airlines if there are safety doubts.

Up to the pilots

Those who are still worried about flying over the New Year might be reassured by the fact that pilots in the UK have a legal right to decide whether to fly or not.

British pilots have already said they will refuse to fly to any countries where air traffic control systems could be hit by the bug. Pilots have expressed concern about the general level of air traffic control standards in parts of Africa and eastern Europe.

The British Airline Pilots Association (Balpa), which has 7,000 members, is investigating aircraft, airports and control systems worldwide to ensure they are Year 2000 compliant. It has already given the all-clear to all Airbus and Boeing aircraft which make up the vast majority of passenger planes.

Balpa was due to publish a survey at the end of July but does not want to name specific countries until it has evidence of potential problems.

Virgin has decided not to fly on 31 December to allow staff to take a holiday, but Jersey European Airways is grounding its fleet because of Y2K doubts.

Some overseas airlines such as the Polish national carrier, LOT, and Vietnam Airlines are also not flying.

In July, British Airways did a test flight to simulate New Year's Eve 1999. A BA plane was checked for Year 2000 compliance on a flight from London to the South of France. The jet's clocks were set to just before midnight on 31 December 1999 and it continued the journey with no problem.

The Action 2000 traffic light codes:

Blue: The assessment has not identified any risks of material disruption to the infrastructure process.

Amber: The assessment indicates that there is some risk of material disruption to infrastructure processes, but that there is an agreed containment plan to rectify shortcomings.

Red: The assessment indicates that there is a severe risk of material disruption to infrastructure processes and that timely rectification might not be possible.

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