Under control

IECQ helps manage electronic components in avionics systems

By Claire Marchand

Avionics – a blend of aviation and electronics – comprises all electronic systems used in aircraft, satellites and spacecraft. It includes communications, navigation, flight and engine control, collision-avoidance and weather-based systems.

Airbus A380 Airbus A380

Avionics surfaced in the 1970s, driven by military aircraft development, and was soon adopted by civil airliners. The popularization of air travel in the second half of the 20th century and the emergence of low-cost airlines within the past decade have meant increased air traffic, tighter control of airspace and, consequently, the need for more sophisticated methods of controlling and ensuring aircraft and passenger safety.

Multiple indicators

The cockpit of an aircraft is a typical location for avionic equipment that consists of control, monitoring, communication, navigation, weather, and anti-collision systems.

  • Automatic control
    Automatic flight control systems lighten the pilots’ workload, especially at crucial times such as landing or in hover, and help eliminate human errors that might otherwise prove fatal
  • Monitoring
    Display systems provide sensor data that allow the pilots to monitor flight parameters at all times and thus to fly the aircraft safely. Most of the information that used to be displayed on mechanical gauges in older aircraft now appears on electronic displays
  • Communications
    Communications connect the flight deck to the ground and to the passengers. On-board communications are provided by public address systems and aircraft intercoms
  • Navigation
    Navigation is the determination of position and heading (direction) on or above the surface of the earth. Avionics can use satellite-based systems, ground-based systems, or any combination of the two. Navigation systems calculate the position automatically and display it to the flight crew on moving map displays
  • Anti-collision systems
    As a complement to air traffic control, most large transport aircraft and many smaller ones use a TCAS (traffic alert and collision avoidance system), which can detect the location of nearby aircraft and provide instructions for avoiding a midair collision. Smaller aircraft may use simpler traffic alert systems which are passive and do not provide information for resolving potential problems. To help avoid collision with terrain, aircraft have systems such as GPWS (ground-proximity warning systems), of which radar altimeters are a key element
  • Weather
    Weather instrumentation such as radar and lightning detectors is important for aircraft which fly at night or in meteorological conditions in which pilots cannot see the weather ahead. Heavy precipitation (as sensed by radar) or severe turbulence (as sensed by lightning activity) are indicators of severe disturbances, and these weather instruments allow pilots to deviate around such areas 
  • Aircraft management systems
    The trend today is to have centralized control of the multiple complex systems fitted to aircraft, including engine monitoring and management

Safety and reliability through IEC International Standards…

While quality is important in all electronics sectors, it is even more so in transportation. One tiny faulty component in an airplane electronic system may endanger the lives of hundreds of passengers and possibly of people on the ground. 

IEC TC (Technical Committee) 107: Process management for avionics, is responsible for developing process management standards on systems and equipment used in the field of avionics.

…and certification

IECQ, the IEC Quality Assessment System for Electronic Components, takes it one step further, testing and certifying the widest variety of electronic components. In addition, IECQ has a programme specifically designed for avionics, the IECQ ECMP (Electronic Component Management Plan) Scheme.

Avionics certified

An ECMP is prepared by a manufacturer of aerospace electronic equipment in accordance withIEC/TS (Technical Specification) 62239Preparation of an Electronic Components Management Plan. The International Standard describes the objectives to be accomplished by avionics manufacturers in managing electronic components in avionics systems.

The plan documents the avionics manufacturer's baseline processes to manage COTS (commercial off-the-shelf) components. The processes documented in the plan satisfy high-level objectives, such as component selection, application, qualification, quality assurance, dependability, data management and obsolescence management. After the plan is approved as compliant to IEC TS 62239, the plan owner is authorized to manage all aspects of the COTS components, in accordance with the plan. All components used in the plan owner's products must satisfy the requirements of the approved plan. IECQ ECMP Certification is used by:

  • Aircraft manufacturers
  • Manufacturers supplying assemblies
  • Sub contractors
  • Overall supply chain

In short IECQ ECMP Certification ensures that fundamental purpose of IEC TS 62239 is maintained, i.e.”…assuring industry and regulatory agencies that electronic components in equipment are selected and applied under controlled processes compatible with the end application…”

The IECQ ECMP Scheme is now responding to industry requests by looking into developing similar certification for other high reliability areas such as the automotive and railway sectors.

For more information on IECQ and the IECQ ECMP Scheme visit: www.iecq.org

Airbus A380 Airbus A380
Automatic flight control systems play crucial role when helicopter is in hover Automatic flight control systems play crucial role when helicopter is in hover
ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) cargo spacecraft on a mission to supply the ISS (International Space Station) ATV (Automated Transfer Vehicle) cargo spacecraft on a mission to supply the ISS (International Space Station)