What Is Airborne Electronic Hardware?

When flight attendants tell you to turn off your electronic devices before takeoff, have you ever wondered why the plane’s systems stay on? The electronic systems onboard the aircraft are known as airborne electronic hardware. This hardware is specially designed, tested, and verified by engineers to ensure that it meets compliance standards before it’s used on active aircraft. So, what exactly is airborne electronic hardware and how do you know that it’s up to compliance regulations? 

An Overview of Airborne Electronic Hardware

Put simply, airborne electronic hardware refers to any of the electronic systems in place in airborne crafts. Common examples of these include quickly replaceable units and components, custom micro-coded units like field-programmable gate arrays, circuitry, and circuit board assemblies, and integrated electronic components like hybrid circuits. These components have to be specially designed, crafted, and tested to remain compliant or else they are unfit for use on an airborne system. 

Airborne electronic hardware passes through the Aircraft Certification Service. With flight safety being a paramount concern for developers, pilots, and passengers alike, it’s only fitting that the ACS maintains incredibly high standards for onboard components as well as their development and testing processes. As such, they adhere closely to several key regulations, the primary one being document DO 254. 

Regulation of Airborne Electronic Hardware

All airborne electronic hardware needs to maintain DO 254 compliance. DO 254 is a document that specifies standards for component development and provides guidance for said development. This standard was formally recognized back in 2005 by the FAA and is now one of the de-facto means for design compliance and assurance in avionics. For engineers, acquiring DO 254 proficiency is critical. 

Achieving DO 254 proficiency 

As with any document detailing standards, compliance, and regulation, the DO 254 is fairly dense and parsing it takes a great deal of skill. Luckily, there are several avionics education organizations that offer DO 254 training courses. These run the gamut of skill levels and are suitable for beginners and experts alike. Whether you’re new to the concepts of avionics regulations or are looking for a refresher, taking either a public or private training class is a sure way to make sure you’re familiar with the concepts presented in DO 254. 

Most training courses detail the long list of steps that are involved in developing airborne electronic hardware. While the list of these steps seems nearly infinite, they’re frequently broken down into clusters of like topics and steps to make the material more digestible. Demonstrating proficiency with DO 254 standards is crucial if you’re interested in a role in avionics engineering and hardware development. 

Key subject areas such as avionics systems, airline safety, hardware planning, design & infrastructure, testing and more should be covered under a comprehensive training program. Not only will you learn all about these concepts as outlined in DO 254, but you’ll also then be certified as proficient and will then be able to work on airborne electronic hardware projects. While you could certainly attempt to cover the material solo, Seeking outside help is often the best course of action as it allows for course correction and clearer interpretation of often dense materials. 

A Necessary Standard

While the extensive regulations in place around avionics technology may seem excessive, they were developed for a reason. Flight safety and risk management are ever important to the industry. The path to a role as an avionics engineer or hardware developer is a long one that requires patience, continued education, and an aptitude for product development. It’s a prime way to shape the future of avionics and how the public at large perceives flight systems.