Continental Airlines has staged the first flight in a simulated year 2000 (Y2K) environment to test aircraft communication addressing and reporting system (ACARS) compatibility.

Boeing, meanwhile, is close to concluding its own flight testing of Y2K modified flight management systems (FMS) and inertial navigation systems (INS).

The Continental Boeing 737-700 flew for 1.06h with the ACARS set to simulate the date change from 31 December, 1999, to 1 January, 2000. During the round-robin flight from Houston, more than a dozen messages were sent, including engine performance data and requests for airport and weather information.

An Arinc standby de-icing frequency was used during the simulation to route the ACARS traffic through a test cell at Annapolis, which was then distributed to the airline via its centre at Charlotte.

The flight follows earlier ground tests, but "this was the first time we put it all together", says Lance Tucker, Continental Y2K contingency planning director.

Continental says its test forms part of a wider industry effort involving Boeing, the US Federal Aviation Administration, International Air Transport Association and US Airline Transport Association.

Similar ground tests have been performed by other carriers, including a recent joint Arinc-United Airlines test of a Boeing 747-400, using the ACARS to communicate between FMS and ground computers.

Boeing, in the meantime, expects to finish its month-long Y2K flight trials this week. The integrated tests concentrate on Honeywell FMS-equipped 747-400s, 757s, 767s, MD-11s, MD-80/90s, Smith FMS-equipped second generation 737s and older Litton INS-equipped 747 Classics and 727s.

Aircraft built in the last 12 months, and/or are FANS-1 equipped, are already Y2K compliant, including the Boeing 717, 737NG, 767-400, 757-300, 777, MD-10 and MD-11. Changes to the FMS have been largely cosmetic, such as removing nuisance messages, while INS have required more involved upgrades.

Source: Flight International