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To ensure the safety of avionic systems, civil avionic software and hardware regulated by certification authorities must be certified based on applicable standards such as DO-178C and DO-254.

According to FAA, Aircraft Certification Service is concerned with the approval of software and airborne electronic hardware for airborne systems (e.g., autopilots, flight controls, engine controls), as well as that used to produce, test, or manufacture equipment to be installed on airborne products.

Industry specialists believe that the overall safety integrity of an avionic system, which comprises software and hardware, should be considered at the system level.

In other words, software and hardware components should be planned, developed and certified in a unified, harmonized manner to ensure the integral safety of the entire avionic system.

One of the reasons for the high development costs of avionic systems complying with standards may be a lack of sufficient understanding of how to employ these standards efficiently.

Consequently, it is important to understand the similarities and differences between DO-178C and DO-254 to effectively manage the processes required by these standards, to minimize cost, and to ultimately ensure the safety of the entire avionic system.

Another way of looking at it, DO-178C brings safety-critical software development into the modern era. The rapid growth in the use of software in airborne systems and equipment in the early 1980s resulted in a need for industry-accepted guidance for satisfying airworthiness requirements.  

The document is published by RTCA, Incorporated, in a joint effort with EUROCAE, and replaced DO-178B.

The FAA approved AC 20-115C on 19 Jul 2013, making DO-178C a recognized “acceptable means, but not the only means, for showing compliance with the applicable airworthiness regulations for the software aspects of airborne systems and equipment certification.”

However, it should be noted that DO-178C alone is not intended to guarantee software safety aspects. Safety attributes in the design and as implemented as functionality must receive additional mandatory system safety tasks to drive and show objective evidence of meeting explicit safety requirements.

Want to learn more? Tonex offers Avionics Software Safety Certification, a 3-day bootcamp focusing on Software Considerations in Airborne Systems and Equipment Certification. This course presents considerations and methods of developing and analyzing avionics software and highlights managing a software safety program. 

For more information, questions, comments, contact us.

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