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What can our Industry Learn from Aviation?

Alexandre Bauduin

Aviation: A conservative industry that has to cope with a fast moving technology that should not fail.

This industry is known for being conservative at least in the civil segment while the military segment is always at the cutting edge. I have worked with tactile screen in military cockpit in the 90’s a feature that is now making it’s way into civilian airplanes.

The market is under enormous cost pressure: Fuel price raise by 1 cent and here you go: A B777 can load more that 180000 liters of fuel, that’s a deep cut on your margin. Passengers are requesting more comfort, cheaper fares. It means more weight and cost saving at all levels.

So aviation needs to be creative to cut the costs: Shaving are done at the program level where for example the 3 or 4 prototypes are “recycled” as marketable planes ( 340 million each), the classical “Iron birds” that where non flyable prototypes used for destructive testing are not longer made because we made incredible progress in simulation.

Shaving comes also on equipment: Heavy and complicated cables and pulleys for flight controls have been replaced by network cables or fiber optics. And sometimes (often now) the same network is shared by the avionics and the in flight entertainment system (IFE). On the Airbus 380, several hackers made their way to the avionics via the IFE from their passenger seat! A governmental agency mandated someone to hack a plane via the Satellite Communication system without touching the plane.

A multi million dollar fighter jet lost all instruments while flying across the international date line because nobody in the code considered that the time could go “backward”.

To maintain the same level of safety it is not sufficient anymore to just work and look at one component. The big picture needs to be understood from architecture to technology used, would it be electronics, software, tools.

In this talk I will go over the aviation history, my experience on the TripleSeven, the 787 and will illustrate with some short stories the challenges that came with new technologies and new ways of developing airplanes. We will continue by looking at how we could prepare ourselves as developers or testers to keep that industry as the safest transportation system.