Vietnam reportedly grounds air fleet for Y2K

Vietnam's national airline plans to cancel all flights that would be airborne as the millennium changes to avoid any possible trouble from year 2000 (Y2K) computer problems, the government-run Vietnam News agency reported yesterday.

The agency said that the chief of Vietnam Airlines' IT program, Tran Van Yen, was mainly concerned with embedded systems used in the carrier's older Fokker 70 and ATR 72 planes used on domestic routes, rather than the Airbus A320s and Boeing 767s used internationally.

Yen said that flights would resume normally as soon as the new year had arrived, the agency reported.

Vietnam Airlines has already spent almost $US2 million to head off whatever damage the year 2000 problem could cause to its computer systems, the agency said.

Between last September and this January, the airline carried out an investigation of what harm the problem could potentially do to the software system of the company as a whole. In a second preventative step running from January through this month, experts are working to fix bugs in the computer systems and are requiring equipment producers and distributors to test their products, according to the agency.

The final step, which will last from June to September, will be used for testing, as the company prepares for what it regards as the four most dangerous dates -- January 1, February 28, February 29 and March 1, 2000.

In 12 South Pacific and Asian countries, about 60 percent of flights scheduled for the beginning of the year 2000 have been cancelled.

In a survey released late last year by market analyst Gartner Group, Vietnam was rated in the lowest category of year 2000 readiness, with the expectation that 66 percent of companies there would suffer a mission-critical year 2000 failure.

The year 2000 problem mostly affects older software programs that use a two-digit data field instead of today's four-digit data field. Computer programs using a two-digit date field may not know whether "00" means 1900 or 2000, which could cause them to malfunction or shut down on January 1, 2000 and related dates.