Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance : A Practitioner's Guide to RTCA/DO-254 book cover
1st Edition

Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance
A Practitioner's Guide to RTCA/DO-254

ISBN 9781482206050
Published December 15, 2014 by CRC Press
249 Pages 10 Color & 79 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Written by a Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) consultant designated engineering representative (DER) and an electronics hardware design engineer who together taught the DO-254 class at the Radio Technical Commission for Aeronautics, Inc. (RTCA) in Washington, District of Columbia, USA, Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance: A Practitioner's Guide to RTCA/DO-254 is a testimony to the lessons learned and wisdom gained from many years of first-hand experience in the design, verification, and approval of airborne electronic hardware.

This practical guide to the use of RTCA/DO-254 in the development of airborne electronic hardware for safety critical airborne applications:

  • Describes how to optimize engineering processes and practices to harmonize with DO-254
  • Addresses the single most problematic aspect of engineering and compliance to DO-254—poorly written requirements
  • Includes a tutorial on how to write requirements that will minimize the cost and effort of electronic design and verification
  • Discusses the common pitfalls encountered by practitioners of DO-254, along with how those pitfalls occur and what can be done about them
  • Settles the ongoing debate and misconceptions about the true definition of a derived requirement
  • Promotes embracing DO-254 as the best means to achieve compliance to it, as well as the best path to high-quality electronic hardware

Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance: A Practitioner's Guide to RTCA/DO-254 offers real-world insight into RTCA/DO-254 and how its objectives can be satisfied. It provides engineers with valuable information that can be applied to any project to make compliance to DO-254 as easy and problem-free as possible.

Table of Contents




Introduction to RTCA/DO-254

Design Assurance Level

DO-254 and DO-178B

Overview of DO-254

What Does It Mean to Me?


Further Information

Regulatory Background

Means of Compliance

Guidance Materials

Issue Papers




Plan for Hardware Aspects of Certification

Tool Assessment and Qualification

Alternative Methods


FAA Order 8110.105 Aspects

Hardware Design Plan

Hardware Validation Plan

Hardware Verification Plan

Hardware Configuration Management Plan

Hardware Process Assurance Plan

Hardware Standards

Validation and Verification Standards

Hardware Archive Standards

Submittals and Coordination



Why Use Requirements?

Requirements Author

System Requirements

Types of Requirements for Electronic Hardware

Allocation and Decomposition

Timing and Performance Specifications

Writing Requirements

PLD Requirements

Electronic Hardware Requirements

Requirements Organization

Systems, Hardware, and Software


Derived Requirements

Creating Derived Requirements

Validation Methods

Philosophy 101—Design Assurance through Design Practice


Device Selection

Design Philosophy

Design Execution


Functional Failure Path Analysis

Appendix B Additional Verification





Test Case Selection Criteria

Test Cases and Requirements

Process Assurance




Audits of Configuration Management

SOI Audit Dry Run



Sub-Tier Supplier Oversight

Configuration Management

Why Configuration Management?

Data Control Categories

Configuration Management Activities

Configuration Identification


Baseline Traceability

Problem Reports

Change Control



Data Retention

Protection against Unauthorized Changes

Media Selection, Refreshing, Duplication


Additional Considerations

Previously Developed Hardware

Commercial Off-the-Shelf Components Usage

Product Service Experience

Tool Assessment and Qualification



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Randall Fulton has more than 36 years of electrical engineering experience in software and electronic hardware development and verification. He holds a BS from the Pennsylvania State University and earned his FAA DER credentials in software and programmable logic devices while working at Boeing Commercial Aircraft. As a DER, he has had approval authority for programmable logic devices since 1997 and has worked numerous Part 23 and Part 25 certification programs with field programmable gate arrays, ASIC, and software. Randall, along with Roy Vandermolen, taught the DO-254 practitioners course for RTCA in Washington, DC from 2006 to 2009. Randall has also taught the Airborne Electronic Hardware Job Functions class for the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City. He currently works as an FAA consultant DER through his company SoftwAir Assurance, Inc.

Roy Vandermolen is an electronics design engineer with more than 35 years of experience ranging from vacuum tubes to programmable logic devices, but has spent the majority of that time designing and verifying programmable logic devices and the circuit cards that employ them. Roy holds a BS from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and is currently a staff engineer and certification manager for electronic flight control systems at Moog Aircraft and an airborne electronics hardware OBAR for Boeing Commercial Aircraft. Roy has worked in a variety of research laboratories, educational institutions, military R&D facilities, and commercial aircraft flight controls manufacturers. At Moog Aircraft, Roy has been involved in the design, verification, and certification of numerous Level A flight control systems. Roy, along with Randall Fulton, taught the DO-254 practitioners course for RTCA in Washington, DC from 2006 to 2009.


"This book, depicting the art of RTCA/DO-254 design assurance using the novel practitioner’s approach, is based on the authors’ and industry feedback, experiences, and lessons learned. Precise explanations ... provide efficient and clear guidelines directly applicable to appropriate engineering methodologies in defining, creating, and testing complex digital circuits for use in safety critical aircraft systems. ... The book’s structure, mixing adequate regulatory needs accompanied with explanations and real examples, can be read with ease. The clear chaptering covers chronologically the aircraft electronic hardware lifecycle execution from planning to deployment, including configuration management and process assurance. Thus the reader can swiftly access material of interest, as chapters can easily be related to the well-known ‘V-model’ development process. ... [Readers of this book will] learn how to comply with Federal Aviation Regulations and RTCA/DO-254, and gain insight into engineering best practices for airborne electronic hardware design assurance. Requirement capture techniques are applied and demonstrated through examples—a first in this type of technical literature. ... A very high-level writing style is found across all sections of the book. This book shall be considered as ‘the reference’ when designing safety critical aircraft systems. ... A tremendous book, setting founding grounds to be used by engineers, managers, and students involved or interested in airworthiness hardware certification and aiming to reduce cost, effort, re-work, and deployment schedules."
—Dr. Patrick Mejasson, Thales Avionics, Paris, France

"With a combined total of over 70 years of experience, Randall Fulton and Roy Vandermolen are veterans in aviation certification and airborne electronic hardware (AEH) development. Based on their vast and varied experience, they provide crucial information necessary to successfully manage, develop, and verify AEH. Reading this book is like sitting in a classroom with expert and battle-tested instructors. The concepts of AEH development, design, validation, and verification are clearly explained and illustrated. This book explains both the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ of critical concepts related to DO-254 compliance. Additionally, the material is written at a level that is practical for systems engineers, managers, and hardware engineers."
—Leanna Rierson, Digital Safety Consulting, Wichita, Kansas, USA

"The succinct manner in which the requirements development methodology is captured is worth the price of the book. … provides a great reference for evaluating requirements development processes and standards."
—Jeff Knickerbocker, Sunrise Certification and Consulting, Inc., Winfield, Kansas, USA