Developing systems for aircraft safely is incredibly complex, which is why industry experts created specific guidelines like the ARP4754 to help software developers obtain the certifications they need that will in turn warrant product quality and safety. These guidelines were created to help system developers both ensure passenger and crew safety while also meeting regulations with ease to help cut costs and go to market faster. Read on to find out more about ARP4754, what it recommends for avionics system developers, and our tips for following the recommendations this guideline lays out!
Aviation systems engineering leverages a huge variety of safety-critical applications which on top of being complicated to develop, also need to safely integrate with each other. While it is fairly straightforward to find and deal with errors in simple systems, it becomes a whole lot harder when you are dealing with integrated systems. And errors in this field come with a high cost – which is why these systems are so meticulously regulated. The ARP4754 is one of the many guidelines created to help avionics system developers along the process of system development.
ARP4754, or the Aerospace Recommended Practice ARP4754A Guidelines for Development of Civil Aircraft and Systems (whew, that’s a mouthful!) is a guideline developed by the Society of Automotive Engineers or SAE. It was initially published in 1996 and officially recognized by the FAA in November 2011, shortly after the latest Revision A was published in December 2010. It’s worth noting that the EUROCAE released the same guideline for European audiences under a different name: ED-79.
ARP4754 was designed to be used alongside SAE ARP4761, also known as the Guidelines and Methods for Conducting The Safety Assessment Process on Civil Airborne Systems and Equipment.
The purpose of ARP4754 is to outline development processes for aircraft and their systems that enable their smooth certification. In other words, it describes an ideal way to go about the whole aircraft development cycle in a way that will get you certified, covering the journey from systems requirements all the way to verification. This guideline in particular puts a significant emphasis on safety aspects while also focusing on design assurance processes.
Some professionals in the avionics field may wonder what the point is of yet another standard, particularly if they are already used to other industry guidelines like the CMMI (Capability Maturity Model Integration) for example. The difference (and by association, the main advantage) is that the ARP4754 is a guideline that focuses on safety-oriented avionics systems engineering.
This means that it continuously highlights how important safety assessments in design and development processes are while emphasizing the integration of safety and development processes, which other guidelines do not necessarily do.
The other advantage is that it’s also pretty straightforward. In many companies which develop aviation systems, they do not have a concrete plan or strategy in place for carrying out safety assessments throughout the application lifecycle. ARP4754 provides a cost-effective safety assessment and management process, which helps developers meet regulations, get certified, and bring safe products to market at a quicker speed.
According to the requirements of the guideline, first ARP4754 applicants need to undertake an exhaustive aircraft and systems planning phase. This ensures that they go through the necessary steps for aircraft and aircraft system development. Each phase has specific processes and requires different types of data and documentation.
The five steps for aircraft system development as outlined by ARP4754 are:
Get everyone on the same page
Many organizations will appoint one safety engineer to a project and expect that they ensure the safety of an entire design. But safety is not just the responsibility of one role, it is a joint responsibility the whole team should undertake to make sure the end-product is fit for use.
Incorporate safety assessments from the start
Something the ARP4754 recommends which sets it apart from other industry standards is that safety assessments should start right at the earliest development stages. This means that during the concept planning phase when requirements are identified, safety requirements for the whole system should be highlighted as well so that the end product is held to that standard.
Clear analysis strategy
It is often the case that the aviation software engineering lifecycle processes organizations have put in place simply fail to state when safety analysis should be undertaken, as well as which ones to perform. Make a decision and document the when and where so that it’s crystal clear for everyone. It’s also important to define what information and data should be taken from the safety assessments and used in development, so it’s worth focusing on communicating that clearly to all stakeholders.
Ensure transparency and traceability
At the end of a development cycle or during an audit, many development teams may find themselves in a situation where they don’t have enough documented evidence to demonstrate compliance. It’s really important to document all the steps taken and changes made in a traceable way to ensure that you can demonstrate compliance at any given point of the application lifecycle.
When you work in systems development for regulated industries like aviation/avionics, the sheer amount of guidelines and regulations you have to follow can be overwhelming. Aerospace requirements are numerous and as complicated as they get.
If you want to make things easier on yourself and your team, adequate tooling goes a long way. By using an Engineering Lifecycle Management platform like Codebeamer for aviation systems compliance, you can automate and control processes to make sure they run in a compliant and fully documented course without deviations.
With the right tooling in place, you can cut development and compliance costs, reduce cycle times, and achieve compliance with DO-178C, DO-254, ARP4754A, and other aviation standards with ease.
Hanna Taller is a content creator for PTC’s ALM Marketing team. She is responsible for increasing brand awareness and driving thought leadership for Codebeamer. Hanna is passionate about creating insightful content centered around ALM, life sciences, automotive technology, and avionics.