FAA equips maintenance specialists with notebook PCs to replace outdated units

Through two contracts totaling $17.5 million, the Federal Aviation Administration has
in the past year purchased about 5,100 notebook PCs from Gateway Inc. and Micron
Electronics Inc.


The notebooks replace 486 and older PCs, used by maintenance specialists, that were not
year 2000-ready. FAA’s Airway Facilities program office in October issued an $8.1
million purchase order for 3,744 notebooks from Micron of Nampa, Idaho, FAA spokeswoman
Tammy L. Jones said. The 266-MHz Pentium II units run Microsoft Windows 95 and have 64M of
synchronous dynamic RAM and 3.2G hard drives.


The office solicited offers from “a limited number of vendors” and determined
that the Micron notebooks could run the FAA Remote Maintenance Monitoring System software,
Jones said. The maintenance specialists take care of ground-based navigation aids and air
traffic control stations.


Last June, Galaxy Scientific Corp. of Egg Harbor Township, N.J., began delivering 1,429
notebooks from Gateway through a $9.4 million 8(a) contract for the Online Aviation Safety
Inspection System (OASIS), said Mark Mullen, a contracting officer in the resource
management branch at FAA’s Office of Acquisitions.


FAA had had a previous contract with Galaxy dating from 1995, and the vendor was the
only one that could fulfill FAA’s technical requirements, Mullen said. Galaxy
officials chose Gateway as the source for the notebooks, which Mullen said cost about
$6,597 apiece.


The OASIS program received Gateway Solo 9100LS units with 266-MHz Pentium II
processors, 64M RAM, 5G hard drives and Win95. Galaxy also supplied 17-inch monitors,
10/100-Mbps Ethernet cards and docking station adapters, he said. Gateway bundled the
units with 120M SuperDisk drives from Imation Enterprises Corp. of Oakdale, Minn., said
Jon Siegel, Imation’s marketing manager.


Traveling inspectors based at 115 Flight Standards district offices use the Gateway
notebooks to run Lotus cc:Mail Mobile, JetForm Corp. FormFlow, Microsoft Office, Symantec
Corp. WinFax Pro and other applications, Mullen said. Because the units are primarily for
data collection and retrieval on the road, Galaxy integrated them for speedy access to the
FAA aviation tracking system and other systems, he said.


Mullen said the deliveries have been on time, and Galaxy is entering the first of four
option years in its contract. OASIS officials plan to order 1,508 more notebooks through
Galaxy this year at an average cost of $6,610 each.  


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