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Airplane Servers

Sat Dec 21, 2019 7:23 pm

So do the larger commerical airplanes have server racks? Like how are the maps and charts stored? I'm assuming they a database of some sort. Also can airplanes do any sort of heavy computation?
I'm assuming the smaller planes with screens have smaller computers or servers onboard the plane itself?
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Re: Airplane Servers

Sat Dec 21, 2019 8:12 pm

Charts are all on iPads now. There are file servers that hold the various databases to work with the FMS. The bizjets i last flew, the databases could display the charts on the MFD, so no need to use the iPad. Charts show own-ship position.
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Re: Airplane Servers

Sat Dec 21, 2019 9:01 pm

The FMS doesn't use a server like you are thinking about. It is all internal in the FMS box that is installed in the Electronics bay. It gets uploaded through usually an optical drive that is either a laptop like device or a permanent installed drive. Now the entertainment system has a server that is very similar to commercial business servers.

The airplane itself really doesn't typically have a large amount of computing power. Many of the boxes in the Electronics bays do have small computers in them but each is tailored to just a few tasks. The FMS and Autopilot computers I would guess to have the most power, but even they are pretty simple by PC or workstation standards.
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Re: Airplane Servers

Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:15 pm

Yes, there are computer racks in the avionics bay. Typically located under the cockpit or cockpit access corridor around the nose gear. Modern airliners have dozens of computers, though lately virtualisation has come into the picture, with many functions running in virtual machines.

There isn't really any heavy computation. From a computer power standpoint, even trajectory computation is not very onerous.

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Re: Airplane Servers

Sat Dec 21, 2019 10:46 pm

At least on our 320s - even the ones that arrived new last month, each airplane has a set of floppy discs and optical discs that are in storage compartments outboard of the pilot seats. If you open the storage compartments and take a look, It is a stack of 3.5 inch floppies and a few CD-ROMs.

Out of curiosity I brought a laptop and took a gander at the floppies and CD-ROMs. They were the engine performance database, for the airplane, magnetic variation database and basic aircraft database for the FMS. It was not the navigation database.

Your FitBit has a greater computational capacity than the FM computers that navigate our 320s around the skies. One of the more frustrating things working with the MCDU is that you can type faster than the FMGC can accept your input. Lots of "PLEASE WAIT" when you're trying to change the departure runway as you're taxiing out for takeoff.

Total storage required for all the information on all the floppies and CDs combined is less than 20MBs.
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Re: Airplane Servers

Sun Dec 22, 2019 5:02 pm

777s have what are called AIMS, for Airplane Information Management System. These are 2 independent racks or cabinets the perform calculations for various airplane systems. Each cabinet has what are called Core Processor Modules that do all the computing. Input/output modules perform data conversion. There are also Graphics Generator modules.

787s has what is called Common Core Network. 2 separate cabinets called Common Computing Resource that do the same thing as AIMS, only more so. This is where most of the in-use airplane software is stored. There is also what is called the Core Network. Contains a repository for all loadable software for the airplane. When the airplane parks at wifi equipped gate, updated software is automatically loaded. There are also all the necessary network security functions, routers, etc.

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