DO-254 Book: Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance

An interview with Randall Fulton

Louie de Luna, Aldec DO-254 Program Manager
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I recently interviewed Randall Fulton, one of the authors of the popular DO-254 book “Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance”. This book is the extension of the 3-day DO-254 Practitioner’s Course we conduct together annually as partners. If you are new to DO-254, I highly recommend this book. The best practices described in this book are so valuable that you can literally be the wiser. I quote from the book’s Preface “After all, a wise person will learn from his own mistakes, but a wiser person will learn from other people’s mistakes.” With the success of the book, I thought I’d ask him 10 questions. Here are the questions I asked Randall along with his answers:


  • Can you give us an overview on what the book is about?

The book documents the practices and techniques that Roy and I identified and witnessed as being compatible with the intent of DO-254 that make the road to compliance and eventual approval as direct, efficient, and effective as possible.  While most of the material in this book is written from the perspective of programmable logic devices, all of it can easily be extended to encompass the rest of an electronic system in the way DO-254 was actually intended to be used.


  • Can you talk about the motivation why you wrote this book?

We felt compelled to share our insights and the knowledge we had synthesized from working on various types of compliance projects. We also wanted to bring our unique blend of nearly 20 years of DER experience combined with the skills of a knowledgeable hardware design engineer. Thirdly, we wanted the information available to engineers and others involved in DO-254 that are not able to take the training class in person.


  • Is this book any different than any other avionics-related book in the market?

Yes, this is the only book on the market dedicated solely to DO-254. It is also written by an FAA DER that has completed dozens of airborne electronic hardware compliance programs and a hardware design engineer that has designed DO-254compliant hardware.  The book is also written for the practitioner. Rather than repeating DO-254 content, the book provides explanation and insight into what it needed to comply with DO-254 objectives. The book is also written to help practitioners learn to think about how to approach compliance and regulated development.


  • What are the key points you’d like your readers to take away from reading the book?

1. Requirements writing

2. Requirements writing

3. Requirements writing


  • Why are well written requirements important?

The hardware design, validation, and verification processes are all based on the requirements. The “better” the requirements are when subsequent activities are started, the better the results.  Designers are taught to design hardware – writing requirements and specifications is often learned on-the-job or through osmosis.


  • Who is the audience for the book?

The book is written for practitioners of DO-254 at all levels of experience and at all levels of involvement. It will be of use to certification authorities, hardware/PLD designers, hardware/PLD verification engineers, process assurance personnel, managers, and sub-suppliers.


  • Aldec has many customers who are PLD designers/verification engineers, what advice do you have for them as they start their first DO-254 DAL A/B project?

Read the book, take the 3-day DO-254 Practitioner’s Course, or do both. Learn from others that have been down this road before and are able to explain the best practices for succeeding.


  • Is the book only for beginners?

The book is written for the beginner to learn new skills and for advanced practitioners to refine their skills. There is something for engineers and managers at all levels.


  • Do I need to understand circuits to fully appreciate the material in the book?

The one chapter that deals with circuits in detail is Design Assurance Through Design Practice. This chapter will benefit an experienced circuit designer the most. An engineer with knowledge of circuits, but little hands-on experience will gain an appreciation of the thought and care taken for safety-critical circuit design.


The book, 'Airborne Electronic Hardware Design Assurance: A Practitioner's Guide to RTCA/DO-254', is available for purchase on Amazon

Louie de Luna is responsible for FPGA level in-target testing technology and requirements lifecycle management for DO-254 and other safety-critical industry standards.  He received his B.S. in Computer Engineering from University of Nevada in 2001.  His practical engineering experience includes areas in Acceleration, Emulation, Co-Verification and Prototyping, and he has held a wide range of engineering positions that include FPGA Design Engineer, Applications Engineer, Product Manager and Project Manager.


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