Millennium Bug Watch

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IT WAS Dr Johnson who said that the prospect of being hanged "concentrates the mind wonderfully". The Chinese government is taking a similar attitude: Zhao Be, head of millennium bug co- ordination, has told the executives of all the airlines that they must be in the air on January 1 2000 to demonstrate that they have sorted out any problems.

It is not only the Chinese who are taking a robust attitude to demonstrating their confidence in their bug fixes. Jane Garvey, the head of the US Federal Aviation Administration, has pledged to fly across America on New Year's Eve to show that US flight systems are safe.

However, critics point out that such gestures mean little. What really counts is how easy or difficult it is to take off or land.

The fear is that ground-based air traffic systems will fail, and cause problems for the arriving flyers. As the Chinese, among others, also say: "It is better to travel hopefully than to arrive."

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