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The Problem of Obsolete Avionics

December 21, 2020 | BY: Michael Doherty, Stephen Willis

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Aircraft that were designed in the last century were expected to have a service life of 20 to 30 years; however, many aircraft are being flown longer or upgraded for life extension. One issue that fleet owners face for their older aircraft is obsolescence of avionics systems. This paper presents different strategies for addressing this growing problem, including replacement of obsolete line replaceable units (LRUs) using commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) products.

The Problem of Obsolete Avionics

An aircraft may need several upgrades or part replacements in order to successfully
fly beyond its original design life

Using Custom COTS for Managing Obsolescence

All aircraft are sold with an estimated lifespan of service. Usually it is anticipated that, under normal usage, you would expect to get a number of years, e.g., 20, out of the aircraft before it needs replacing.

An aircraft’s various onboard systems have supply and maintenance contracts designed with this lifespan in mind; however, many aircraft end up in service for longer than originally anticipated, which can create part obsolescence issues. It gets harder to find a way to replace or repair a part as time goes on, and aircraft can be grounded if a necessary part fails and there is no replacement.

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Author’s Biography

Michael Doherty

Business Development Manager

Michael Doherty has 19 years’ experience in Flight Test Instrumentation (FTI) for Bombardier Shorts, Belfast. For 12 of these years, Michael was the manager of the FTI group. Michael also has a lot of experience of aircraft systems, structural and ground vibration testing. He has a BSc in Electronics and an MSc in Engineering Management. Michael joined Curtiss-Wright in 2006 and currently holds the role of Business Development Manager. Previously, Michael was a Program Manager for, and managed, many of the key customer programs run from the Dublin office.

Author’s Biography

Stephen Willis

Marketing Portfolio Manager

Stephen Willis works for Curtiss-Wright in the role of Marketing Portfolio Manager. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Philosophy for research in mathematical models and their market application for risk assessment and a PG Dip in marketing and management. His current research interests include data acquisition, recording and control systems and their applications in enabling a cost effective route to gathering large amounts of data. In particular, applications of interest include flight test, crash protected recording and structural/ usage monitoring programs. He is the author of several of academic papers and magazine articles.

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