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Dover C-5 Galaxy first tested in AMC for Y2K compliance

By Airman 1st Class C. Todd Lopez

DOVER AIR FORCE BASE, Del. (April 23, 1999) -- One of Dover Air Force Base's 36 C-B Galaxy Aircraft was recently tested to ensure it was Y2K compliant. The aircraft was the first in Air Mobility Command to undergo such a test.

Y2K, short for "Year 2000," has become a buzzword for problems created when older computer systems fail to recognize the coming millennium as 2000, and instead, because of outdated programming, misinterpret it as 1900.

The tests, conducted on the ground as well as in the air, were designed to ensure the C-5's systems would be able to deal with the date change, or "roll-over" from 1999 to 2000.

"This mission was intended to demonstrate the C-5 is Y2K compliant," said Capt. Huck Richard, 33rd Test Squadron, C-5 Test Director for AMC. "The C-5 was flown for the first time in a simulated Y2K environment. The tests involved watching the computer run through normal routines while in that environment."

A total of nine tests were performed on the C-5, using seven significant dates. According to AMC documentation, each date has the potential to cause specific computer problems with the C-5's systems. Ground tests were performed with the aid of a testing van, loaded with special equipment designed to assist in aircraft testing.

"We did seven tests on the ground, where we loaded the date and allowed it to turn over," said Capt. Michael Pakiz, 3rd Airlift Squadron. "The test van can be hooked into the plane to simulate a Global Positioning Satellite. The computer has a wire in the back that hooks into where the GPS antenna is usually input. It tricks the airplane. The airplane thinks it has a GPS satellite with a time signal, but really it is just the computer in the van simulating the GPS."

While the C-5's systems are hooked into the test van, crew members were able to watch the significant dates "rollover" and then test key C-5 systems.

"The two systems we were concerned with were the new navigation computer and the MADAR II maintenance computer," said Huck. "All the dates and times were accurately processed by those systems and were checked without any flaws."

Once ground tests were completed, the plane was actually flown, and put through two of the same tests it had already passed on the ground. During the flight tests, the plane flew without the aid of any GPS, real or simulated.

According to Pakiz, flight test dates were Dec. 31, 1999 to Jan 1, 2000 as well as February 28, 2000 to February 29, 2000.

The first date is significant because that is when the year changes from 1999 to 2000. Noncompliant systems would erroneously change the date from 1999 to 1900. The second test date is significant because 2000 is a leap year.

According to Huck, the plane performed without a hitch. "The aircraft we evaluated, performed effectively in a simulated Y2K environment, we will be ready for the challenges faced by AMC in the next millennium."