DO-278A Introduction for Engineers and Managers

DO-278A: Introduction

DO-278A is often called “DO-178 for the ground” though it’s much more. Increasingly aerospace systems containing software on the ground are required to follow DO-278A.  Learn DO-278A facts, DO-278A risk reduction, and DO-278A COTS software utilization.

DO-278A is often referred to as “DO-178’s little brother, for ground systems.” However, is DO-278A a little brother or more of a big sister? Let’s see …

DO-278A is properly titled “GUIDELINES FOR COMMUNICATION, NAVIGATION, SURVEILLANCE, AND AIR TRAFFIC MANAGEMENT (CNS/ATM) SYSTEMS SOFTWARE INTEGRITY ASSURANCE.” The operative term here is “CNS/ATM, which again means ground-based aviation software involved with “Communications, Navigation, Surveillance and Air Traffic Management.” With such a long title, it’s a sure bet that DO-278A is NOT merely a little brother to DO-178C. In fact, DO-278 was updated to DO-278A via the RTCA SC-205 committee and released in December of 2011. As any true student of history knows, it is not the absolute date of events which is important, but rather the context of what was occurring simultaneously elsewhere in the world which matters. In the case of RTCA SC-205, it is imperative to understand that DO-178B was being updated simultaneously which yielded DO-178C released late, but soon thereafter.

As with airborne software (software which either executes onboard an aircraft, or directly influences the execution of such software), CNS/ATM can obviously affect aviation safety. In fact, many facets of Communication, Navigation, Surveillance, and Air Traffic Management impact safety because a single error could have dire repercussions.

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