I wanted to express my thanks to Todd, over at FAAConsultants.com. He placed this site on his resource page, and we’re beginning to see some referred traffic as a result.

While I have not worked directly with FAAConsultants, I have had several conversations with Todd, including a demonstration of their software product; and I believe that many firms who produce hardware or software that must comply with FAA regulations would benefit by its use.

For those of you who produce hardware or software for the commercial aviation market, FAAConsultants provides DER & Certification management services to an international client-base. They have also created a suite of software that can help companies of any size manage their compliance with DO-178B and DO-254, through management of documentation and checklists. This article will focus on that software, and how it can benefit you.

The first item of note is that this is a single integrated web-based software package, totally seemless to the users. The system requirements appear to be modest, and a medium sized organization could probably even run the server from a standard Windows desktop configuration.

The software presents a simple, intuitive organization. The structure seems to flow naturally with the typical chronology of the project.

The Program management interface permits the creation of new development programs, and provides access to all of the subordinate aspects of each program.

Requirements management centralizes the task of maintaining requirements and trace data. It manages traceability to the code module level. The system seems very simple and effective compared to most others I’ve dealt with; and while there appear to be some limitations on the flexibility, it seems to provide an effective automation mechanism for these normally difficult tasks, while circumventing the need for a full-blown requirements management system.

Event management handles milestone and general schedule deadline tracking with a straight-forward calendar application.

The document manager allows import, export of all documents required by the FAA standards. Access to documents, associated checklists, release status, and last modification date are all available and modifiable from one simple, cleanly formatted page.

The action item manager must be the heart of the system, at least from a program perspective. It provides complete electronic checklists for all of the mandatory reviews and appraisals appropriate to the standard and certification level. Each question provides a checkbox, a comment field, and a reference to the relevant section of DO-178B, DO-254, and other standards documents. Checklists on mandatory documents and code files are automatically associated with the current version of the document stored by the system. Sign-in sheets for each review can be created and printed directly from the interface. Finally, corrective actions can be generated, assigned, and tracked from the system as well.

The security manager module provides user management and role assignment that makes the tasks of module access controls, and sign-offs determinations for various documents and checklists a bit simpler.

Overall, I was actually very surprised by the completeness and practical simplicity of this application. Two things that struck me as weak about the product, could also be viewed as strengths, as they sustain the software’s phenomenal simplicity, and neither is really a necessity, so much as it is polish. First, I was somewhat surprised by the lack of internal versioning. This can be a complex mechanism, and the weakness might be easily overcome through exporting tables to an external version control system. Still, I’m not sure that there is a great need to maintain software access to past versions of documents or code within this system. These can surely be maintained externally, and within the system the versions and configuration is maintained. Putting this capability would definitely place a much greater burden on the database system, quite possibly scaling up the minimum system requirements. The second thing I noticed was the lack of fancy reports. Paper reports are generated simply by printing the webpages. It’s very clean and simple, provides objective evidence of process compliance, and has some certification history behind it. Still, I can’t help thinking the software would be enhanced by the addition of a PDF generator provides more “report-like” formats for electronic storage and/or printing.

A complementary set of templates, in MS-Word, which includes the entire DO-178B or DO-254 specified document set is also available; including development standards. The templates may be customized or used as-is, and I am told that they fully document a process built around the web-based tools. Simply by using the tools as specified and adding the project-specific information (System Information, Requirements, etc.) to the templates, an organization can provide complete objective evidence compliance. Although I have personally reviewed the entirety of only one of these templates, I understand that they have been successfully used in certifying systems.

The pricing of the software varies by the templates and options (determined by the certification level); but even with all options and templates installed, I found the product to be an amazing value.

About Max H:
Max is a father, a husband, and a man of many interests. He is also a consulting software architect with over 3 decades experience in the design and implementation of complex software. View his Linked-In profile at http://www.linkedin.com/pro/swarchitect