Every single airborne system relies on internal electronics and airborne electronic hardware to operate efficiently and without error. The FAA Aircraft Certification Service is responsible for developing the quality assurance, best practices, and design assurance guidance surrounding the safety-critical standards that go into each piece of hardware on board an airborne system.
For the aspiring avionics engineer, aviation engineers, hardware engineer, or avionics hardware development professional, it's important to know the ins and outs of these structural coverage policies, especially DO-254.
The Importance of DO-254 Compliance
While it's a complex concept, a brief summary is that DO-254 is one of the FAA hardware design and element analysis specifications that ensure device compliance in airborne electronic hardware. DO-254 compliance is an industry best practice. Its integral to every step of the product lifecycle, including the planning phase wherein a PHAC is sent to the necessary authorities at the first stage of involvement (SOI).
DO-254 is broken into several design assurance levels, including Level A, Level B, and Level C. DO-254 compliance levels determine how much a given hardware failure may impact an aircraft, Level A being a catastrophic failure. The levels subsequently decrease in severity as they proceed through Level B, Level C, and so on, with Level E representing a hardware failure that will not impact occupant safety.
With the various advancements made in the hardware aspect of certification for safety-critical hardware, it's no surprise that DO-254 standards continue to evolve as well. While it may seem like the standard is simply a checklist of best practices, it almost functions as a gap analysis that provides verification of onboard components, including ASIC integration and programmable logic devices. It contains important knowledge for the latest safety standards and is rigorously upheld within the world of aviation hardware development.
DO-254 also differs from several other guidelines, including DO-178B, ARP-4754A, ARP-4761, and DO-178C. DO-178C, in particular, focuses on the actual commercial software systems as well as the knowledge of software-hardware development processes. While a basic familiarity of DO-254 is serviceable, it doesn't do much to instill confidence when it comes to commercial hardware development techniques.
DO-254 Certification and Airborne Electronic Hardware
The right training material can have a great impact on many industry professionals and popular publications, from EASA officials (the EASA is the European Union Aviation Safety Agency) to aviation companies and project managers. In fact, some estimates cite that proper training, certification, and skills verification can help decrease project costs significantly. However, that is not the real intent of DO-254 certification and training. Above all, safety is the first step for any course. While free information is available, working with a trainer or consultant is a much more effective method.
That's why companies like AFuzion are providing training attendees with options ranging from a basic DO-254 course to training that focuses on the integration of advanced concepts are more detailed specifics. DO-254 Training is a necessity to ensure greater levels of compliance with new hardware certification requirements. Many worldwide certification agencies offer programs but few are as comprehensive as AFuzion's training. The organization provides courses for all skill levels and helps industry professionals bridge knowledge gaps.
Of course, this is simply an overview of DO-254 and its importance to the airborne electronic hardware industry as a whole. There are untold numbers of intricacies and further complexities to mine when examining how this standard operates within the framework of the industry.
As it stands, DO-254 is integral to systems safety and ensuring that you've received the highest level of training not only helps promote avionics safety but makes you that much more of a competitive candidate in your field.