Obsolescence and Life Cycle Management for Avionics
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Obsolescence and Life Cycle Management for Avionics

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      This research identifies ways to identify and mitigate obsolescence risks in avionics and to provide related aviation safety input to the Federal Aviation Administration for the development of regulations, policy, guidance, and training. Obsolescence and obsolescence management of avionics products are a technically challenging and costly financial problem with many adverse business impacts for both the avionics suppliers and their customers. Though obsolescence is not unique to the aerospace industry, it presents special problems because of the typically long life cycle of aircraft and a requirement to comply with airworthiness regulations that make continuous change complex and costly. Obsolescence is the inevitable consequence of the dependence of aerospace on a supply base whose major markets are outside of aerospace and whose technology life cycles are much shorter than those of other markets. Aerospace has a continual demand for technological progress in aircraft system capabilities and safety improvements, but on a much longer timescale than the technology turnover timescale of the supply base. Obsolescence is an inevitable occurrence; therefore, the goal of obsolescence and lifecycle management is to minimize the recurring cost impacts and the disruption of supply to customers while maintaining continued airworthiness and regulatory compliance. This report describes the current state of obsolescence management in the aerospace industry; the processes, standards, and tools now being used; and the underlying causes. The report addresses the identification, mitigation, and avoidance of issues related to obsolescence in systems, software, and airborne electronic hardware development; the related design assurance and certification considerations; and optimal methods for life-cycle maintenance and technical refreshment. The report identifies known and emerging obstacles, problems, issues, and gaps in existing standards and guidance; proposes standards and assurance techniques that may minimize the impact of obsolescence; and suggests how manufacturers can proactively plan and manage the life cycle of their products. The report describes the extant research on numerical methods for obsolescence risk assessment and related economic modeling, and provides recommendations for further public guidance and standards that would assist industry and users in adapting to a dynamic environment. The report suggests some industry and regulatory practices that could promote best practices; reduce costs and inconvenience; and improve the product life-cycle planning process. Finally, the report suggests some relevant research topics that are not well addressed presently and should be considered for future work. The report suggests that the obsolescence problem cannot be solved only by engineering methods, but also requires proactive measures and risk-awareness planning by both customers and suppliers. Obsolescence is a complex mix of engineering, economic, and business issues with many associated uncertainties. These uncertainties arise from the supply base and the customer base, which require marketing, engineering, and economic planning and analysis using numerical risk-assessment methods that measure uncertainty.
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