What Is DO-254?

When it comes to flight, mistakes are unacceptable. You’re thousands of feet in the sky—it’s impossible to prevent fatalities in the event of a crash. But flying is the safest mode of travel there is because of the low number of deaths in proportion to the billions of passengers there are on flights every year. And you can credit that to the aviation industry’s almost impossibly high standards.

As far as creating hardware for avionics is concerned, no one can use the quip, “Well it’s not rocket science.” The hardware that goes into aircraft impacts the safety of billions of people worldwide, so it’s mandatory for there to be high standards. DO-254 is designed to elevate those standards. Continue reading to learn more about it.

What Is DO-254?

DO 254 is a Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) standard and certification for electronic hardware for commercial airplanes. Parts of a plane are assigned a rating based on how detrimental it would be for that particular system to fail. This rating is called the design assurance level, and it’s ranked from A to E with A being the highest standard. 

The A rating is designated for elements whose failure would result in a crash and loss of lives. The E rating is reserved for hardware whose failure would only cause inconvenience but no risk of injury or death. The purpose of the hardware you’re making determines its design assurance level (DAL). 

Understanding The Design Assurance Levels (DAL)

Think about your automobile for a moment. You wouldn’t want your brakes to go through the same level of testing that your cup holder goes through, right? One holds your loose change and old chewing gum wrappers, and the other stops your car! The DALs assign a level of consequence to airborne electronic hardware based on the function they serve. 

The reason the DALs are important is that they determine the target margin of error or failure rate that’s acceptable. For example, the flight controls would have a DAL A because their failure would result in a crash. The headphone jacks that allow you to hear the movies when they play in flight would have a DAL E. If they fail, the biggest problem you’ll have to worry about is bored or irritable toddlers. 

Just know that the more crucial the hardware, the more intense the level of scrutiny it undergoes. Heading into a project, you need to know which category your product will fall under and test it accordingly.

Meeting DO-254 Certification Standards

Meeting FAA standards is no walk in the park by any stretch of the imagination. As a designer, your job is to get the product from the design studio to the market as quickly as possible. If you don’t understand DO-254 standards and methodology, trying to adhere to them could sink your design. 

Whenever you find yourself in foreign territory, it’s best to have a guide that can show you the lay of the land. Companies like AFuzion have been helping their customers to meet FAA standards for decades. 

These companies can provide everything from the implementation and manufacture of your design to the testing and certification. They use checklists that serve as the structure for their auditing and gap analysis to give your product the ultimate shot at certification. 

The key is to find a company that understands your vision and wants to make your vision the best it can be. Do in-depth research before choosing a development and testing company to help with your product. Select one that has a proven track record as a leader in meeting DO-254 requirements. 

DO-254 standards are aimed at making sure that flying remains the safest way to travel for years to come. Meeting those standards is difficult but doable with the proper understanding and the right partnerships.