Insertnamehere
Topic Author
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Aircraft Software Systems

Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:15 pm

I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software updates, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!
 
Woodreau
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sat Mar 21, 2020 8:35 pm

On the A320 planes that were delivered last month from Airbus, they have a 3.5” floppy drive installed on the center pedestal and PCMCIA cards to access the aircraft data systems.
Bonus animus sit, ab experientia. Quod salvatum fuerit de malis usu venit judicium.
 
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zeke
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sat Mar 21, 2020 9:52 pm

Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software updates, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!


I don’t think you will be able to get DO-178 avionics certified on a normal Linux kernel. Most of the avionics systems run a real time operating system like INTEGRITY-178B, VxWorks 653, LynxOS-178.
Human rights lawyers are "ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.'" - Sky News
 
Insertnamehere
Topic Author
Posts: 179
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sat Mar 21, 2020 10:41 pm

Woodreau wrote:
On the A320 planes that were delivered last month from Airbus, they have a 3.5” floppy drive installed on the center pedestal and PCMCIA cards to access the aircraft data systems.


Even the NEOs or is this only for the CEO's?
 
strfyr51
Posts: 4456
Joined: Tue Apr 10, 2012 5:04 pm

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 4:57 am

Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software upda es, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!

I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.
 
Insertnamehere
Topic Author
Posts: 179
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 5:29 am

strfyr51 wrote:
Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software upda es, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!

I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.


I know AIRAC updates are compiled monthly just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup considering how tied to the internet modern aircraft are. Is it common for aircraft to not receive an update for a day or two before Mx can get around to updating or is it a relatively trival matter and can be done during a turnaround?
 
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Starlionblue
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 7:43 am

Insertnamehere wrote:
strfyr51 wrote:
Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software upda es, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!

I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.


I know AIRAC updates are compiled monthly just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup considering how tied to the internet modern aircraft are. Is it common for aircraft to not receive an update for a day or two before Mx can get around to updating or is it a relatively trival matter and can be done during a turnaround?


Most of the aircraft in service today have computer systems designed in the early 90s. I think the A330 flight management computers run a 386 processor. And they are still in production today. Not really something you can easily bolt an over-the-air update to.

Updating is a trivial matter. The new database is loaded a few days before in the "background". One of the first things you check when setting up the FM is the nav database validity. If it is time to update, you simply switch the old one with the new one. Toggling the databases is also a useful trick if you want to completely wipe any programming that has already been done.

Pic shows the page. Obviously in real life the dates would be sequential.
Image
"There are no stupid questions, but there are a lot of inquisitive idiots." - John Ringo
 
gloom
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 8:05 am

Insertnamehere wrote:
just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup


You still have much to learn on IT.

Remember the "hotel hack" attack back - in 2014, I guess?

It's much safer to update via local device. Security is top priority here.

Considering systems, as Zeke said it's usually RTOS, compiled and uploaded with function specific software. VxWorks is a nice example. Yes, most of these are very much "linux-like", except they're more like old, forgotten Unix systems. Custom build, hardware-specific units.

Cheers,
Adam
 
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zeke
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:47 am

Navigation database updates and software updates are two very different matters. Software updates have part numbers and are tightly controlled. Navigation databases are optional, bit like a contacts list on a phone. You can use the nine without contacts, you cannot use a phone without its software.
Human rights lawyers are "ambulance chasers of the very worst kind.'" - Sky News
 
DarQuiet
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 12:49 pm

Woodreau wrote:
On the A320 planes that were delivered last month from Airbus, they have a 3.5” floppy drive installed on the center pedestal and PCMCIA cards to access the aircraft data systems.


Hmm... Will you be able to share which MSN is this? It's interesting to find out that some operators to this age of technology still prefer the MDDU whereas the PDL (to use PMAT and later on USB) has been introduced from MSN late 4XXX that was delivered around 2011-2012.


To thread starter, much of the data communication is under ARINC format.

Software upload can be achieved by any of the following medium: 3.5" floppy disk, PCMCIA, USB... But since innovation moves way ahead of us, there are now methods for wireless data transfer once aircraft reaches the gate (e.g. A350)
 
GalaxyFlyer
Posts: 4910
Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 1:54 pm

Insertnamehere wrote:
strfyr51 wrote:
Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software upda es, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!

I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.


I know AIRAC updates are compiled monthly just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup considering how tied to the internet modern aircraft are. Is it common for aircraft to not receive an update for a day or two before Mx can get around to updating or is it a relatively trival matter and can be done during a turnaround?


Collins offers Wi-Fi navigation and chart updates, a message is posted in the FMS that an update is available, pilot selects the update. Load times off a stick are about 45 minutes, IIRC, can’t say about the wireless. We haven’t used 3.5” disks since about 2006. It’s a $35,000 upgrade.

Aircraft system updates are an entirely different process.
 
unimproved
Posts: 164
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 2:46 pm

DarQuiet wrote:
Woodreau wrote:
On the A320 planes that were delivered last month from Airbus, they have a 3.5” floppy drive installed on the center pedestal and PCMCIA cards to access the aircraft data systems.


Hmm... Will you be able to share which MSN is this? It's interesting to find out that some operators to this age of technology still prefer the MDDU whereas the PDL (to use PMAT and later on USB) has been introduced from MSN late 4XXX that was delivered around 2011-2012.


To thread starter, much of the data communication is under ARINC format.

Software upload can be achieved by any of the following medium: 3.5" floppy disk, PCMCIA, USB... But since innovation moves way ahead of us, there are now methods for wireless data transfer once aircraft reaches the gate (e.g. A350)

PDL usage is based on the airline infrastructure more than the A/C. We switched all frames to a PDL connector which IIRC was a simple plug and play mod.

Even then the 777 still has some MAT-only software loaded from 3.5".
 
mxaxai
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 9:22 pm

Computers that are not flight critical usually run on regular commercial OS, like the electronic flight bags that often run on Apple or Windows devices.

Flight control computers on FBW aircraft, and others that are deemed essential for safe flight, all use RTOS. The regulations don't say which OS you have to use so you can choose freely, although product support, prior certification and experience will often favor certain ones over others.
 
strfyr51
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Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:37 pm

Insertnamehere wrote:
strfyr51 wrote:
Insertnamehere wrote:
I am sure much of this is trade secrets but what kernel does most computer systems on modern aircraft use?

In the server world, along with IoT and even phones, Linux is king, but do aircraft use a stripped down Linux kernel or something else?

As well, how do modern aircraft get software upda es, does Mx staff simply plug in a USB or their laptop or are they able to handle over the air updates like our phones?

Thanks in advance!

I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.


I know AIRAC updates are compiled monthly just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup considering how tied to the internet modern aircraft are. Is it common for aircraft to not receive an update for a day or two before Mx can get around to updating or is it a relatively trival matter and can be done during a turnaround?

So? How would you verify whether the update was valid? and who would be responsible for the veracity of the updated information? I know for a fact that United Buys the updates from Jeppsen and it's uploaded to a single website for the United techs to download, Make floppy disc or cd rom copies of and upload them into the airplanes.
 
GalaxyFlyer
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Joined: Fri Jan 01, 2016 4:44 am

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Sun Mar 22, 2020 10:39 pm

We, the pilots loaded our own updates away from home, if they sent the stick or we loaded from Collins
 
bhill
Posts: 1729
Joined: Thu Sep 13, 2001 8:28 am

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Mon Mar 23, 2020 2:35 pm

Huh...VxWorks....same OS as some of my Canon cameras....
Carpe Pices
 
DarQuiet
Posts: 16
Joined: Tue Aug 15, 2017 12:31 am

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Tue Mar 24, 2020 3:54 am

strfyr51 wrote:
Insertnamehere wrote:
strfyr51 wrote:
I can speak for United only but United gets Navigation updates monthly though I cannot tell you the language they use, I don't know. But they're updated manually and the Pilots can see when or IF the update has been accomplished.


I know AIRAC updates are compiled monthly just surprising to me coming from an IT backround that navigation databases don't have the ability to grab updates automatically on startup considering how tied to the internet modern aircraft are. Is it common for aircraft to not receive an update for a day or two before Mx can get around to updating or is it a relatively trival matter and can be done during a turnaround?

So? How would you verify whether the update was valid? and who would be responsible for the veracity of the updated information? I know for a fact that United Buys the updates from Jeppsen and it's uploaded to a single website for the United techs to download, Make floppy disc or cd rom copies of and upload them into the airplanes.


Before initiating the upload, the aircraft maintenance manual will instruct the uploader (mechanic) to verify the part number of the software currently installed and then the part number of the software to be installed. You can tell if the upload is successful when the part number of the currently installed matches with the part number of the software to be installed.

Unless the pilot will later on complain for a missing waypoint (e.g. NDB), then it's the supplier's and/or airline's flight technical team fault for not doing their homework to verify the content before the software was issued for uploading.

It's a basic standard practice.
 
ZaphodHarkonnen
Posts: 989
Joined: Sun Jan 04, 2015 10:20 am

Re: Aircraft Software Systems

Wed Apr 01, 2020 2:59 am

If the software builder is sensible you will also find the installation files will be digitally signed so that you can be confident the files have not been tampered with since they were created. The same general process is used to establish secured connections when you go to sites like your banking site of the Airliners.net forum.

I'm a software dev by trade. Not in the aviation side of things, but a lot of the basic practices are similar.

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