SW Aviator Magazine - April/May 1999 issue
Y2K and Aviation
Anyone who watches television or reads the newspaper is bound to be familiar with Y2K. A lot of you have already checked your personal computers and some of you might be stocking up on provisions, just in case. But what about the avionics in your aircraft?

In a nutshell, computers have been designed to read a two-digit date code. The computer assumes the first two digits to be "19." Therefore, when the year 2000 comes, the computer will not recognize the "20." But what does this mean for avionics?

Some avionics have a date code in them as well, so, in theory, the same thing which happens to your personal computer could happen to your avionics. Many manufacturers have released statements stating their "readiness plans."

Allied Signal says that all their products currently being manufactured are Year 2000 compliant. However, the products which are already in most aircraft may have some problems. The company has categorized their products into several different groups: Compliant Products, Operational Products, Products Requiring Action, Not Applicable, and Under Evaluation. Allied Signal currently has a limited list of equipment on their web site (www.alliedsignal.com or call 973-455-2000).

Garmin International seems to be on the ball. From the beginning of production, they took into account Y2K development considerations. All Garmin products will continue to operate normally after 2000 (www.garmin.com or call 800-800-1020).

II morrow, home of Apollo, is another commonly used GPS. They, too, have devised a plan, similar to that of Allied Signals. Most of their commonly used GPS systems are currently ready for the Year 2000. However, some of their equipment is not ready at this time. II morrow has a very comprehensive web site (www.iimorrow.com or call 800-525-6726) listing the status of all of their equipment.

Like the other companies mentioned, Northstar Technologies, Inc. has a plan in action. They claim that any unit manufactured or sold as of September, 1993 is Y2K compliant. Northstar says they will also offer free upgrades to those products which were sold before September, 1993. They can be contacted via their web site (www.northstarcmc.com or call 800-628-4487).

There are a few manufacturers out there working in secrecy. When I asked them about Y2K and their avionics, the reply was very simple: "We don't know at this time. We will put out information later this year." Not a very helpful response.

All the manufacturers contacted had some sort of disclaimer. Most said that they think they've fixed the problem, but will not be sure until the event. They also stated that equipment interfaced to their products needs to be checked by that particular manufacturer. They all said if the U.S. government's satellites did not function properly then the GPS won't function properly either. And finally, the manufacturers stated that all information was for informational purposes only and does not constitute a representation or warranty.

So, what does all this mean to you and your avionics? Unfortunately, not that much. A lot of you probably still have questions. I recommend listing the part numbers and serial numbers of any avionics about which you may have a question and bringing the list to your local avionics shop or contacting the manufacturers directly.

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The material in this publication is for advisory information only and should not be relied upon for navigation, maintenance or flight techniques. SW Regional Publications and the staff neither assume any responsibilty for the accuracy of this publication's content nor any liability arising out of it. Fly safe.