Insights Blog Flying Safely from DO-178B to DO-178C: The Essential Changes You Need to Know About

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Flying Safely from DO-178B to DO-178C: The Essential Changes You Need to Know About

The new emphases on clarity, consistency, and stringent, detailed verification practices in DO-178C/ED-12C are intended to advance aerospace safety for the benefit of the industry as well as customers and crew.

June 4, 2021

DO178

All industries evolve, driven by emerging technologies, operational improvements and new market needs.  Quality standards must evolve to keep pace. Nowhere is the need for rigorous, up-to-date quality standards more critical than onboard avionics software development, where passengers’ lives and safety depend on flawless system functionality.

In 1992, software certification authorities including the FAA in the US and the EASA in Europe jointly created a set of safety guidelines commonly known as DO-178B/ED-12B. These guidelines became the top standard for approving commercial aerospace software systems. Twenty years later, authorities released DO-178C/ED-12C, which is now the almost-universal certification standard.

The structure and objectives of the two versions are essentially unchanged. Both versions evaluate the degree to which a given software can affect failure of an airborne system. Both classify software systems into five levels of criticality, with each level signifying a decreased degree of risk in the event of error or failure.

Level A: Catastrophic

May have fatal consequences, such as a plane crash.

Level B: Hazardous  

May cause severe passenger injuries.

Level C: Major

May cause passenger injury or discomfort.

Level D: Minor

May cause flight delay or other inconvenience.

Level E: No effect

Has no effect on safety.

Certification and quality experts reviewing DO-178B found it out of date compared to state-of-the art software development and verification technologies. They also found it lacking clarity and the detail necessary to avoid confusion on the part of suppliers and developers.

The updated document corrects these omissions and issues with more precise language and consistent use of terminology. In addition, DO-178C:

  • Includes new topics, such as Parameter Data Item File (PDI) and Verification of Parameter Data Item File.
  • Expands upon the prior version’s safety objectives for the most at-risk levels.
  • Covers new technological advances and software development processes, such as model-based development, Software Tool Qualification, and object-oriented technology in easy-to-use modular format supplements.

QA & Testing: You Won’t Get off the Ground without It

The new emphases on clarity, consistency, and stringent, detailed verification practices in DO-178C/ED-12C are intended to advance aerospace safety for the benefit of the industry as well as customers and crew. These new emphases mean there is much more to test, at a more sophisticated level.

For instance, every tool used in certification needs to be qualified. Object-oriented technologies require the support of a team with C++ training. Tedious manual processes, already slow, need automation to keep up with expanded requirements.

Your implementation of the new standards and certification itself depend on the highest levels of quality assurance and testing.  Our pure-play focus on quality engineering and software testing with years of expertise in the Aerospace industry make Qualitest the right choice to help you achieve your DO-178C/ED-12 certification. Contact an expert today.

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