Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) of ARINC IA℠ Sets the Standards for Avionics in Aircraft Worldwide

Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) of ARINC IA℠ Sets the Standards for Avionics in Aircraft Worldwide

ARINC Industry Activities works together with thought leaders in aviation, ICAO, RTCA, and EUROCAE to represent airlines, shape the future of aviation, and define the aircraft systems necessary to ensure safe, reliable air transport.  Each year, more than 35 million scheduled flights will operate worldwide, relying on avionics and air traffic control facilities that use equipment specified by the ARINC Standards.  With a global fleet of nearly 30,000 commercial aircraft in service and nearly 2,000 new aircraft added each year, the airlines are continuing to add capacity to support increased passenger demand, expected to nearly double over the next 20 years. 

Standardized avionics – the electronic communications, navigation, flight control, flight management and safety systems that make air transportation more reliable, comfortable, and safer – are fundamental building blocks of the modern aviation industry.  The avionics industry alone is estimated to be a $71 billion (USD) sector of the aircraft manufacturing industry, and continues to undergo rapid technological change from advanced computers, satellite systems, and communications networks.

ARINC Industry Activities℠ (ARINC IA℠) supports the industry through three committees – the Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC), the Avionics Maintenance Committee (AMC), and the Flight Simulator Engineering & Maintenance Committee (FSEMC).  Working cooperatively through the AEEC, engineering professionals in the avionics and electronics segments of the industry develop technical standards that contribute to achieving a safe, global, seamless, and interoperable aviation system.

The AEEC, AMC, and FSEMC conduct internationally-recognized aviation engineering and maintenance conferences that are attended by more than 2,200 industry professionals each year.  This diverse group represents more than 75 airlines, 6 airframers, and more than 425 industry suppliers from 54 countries worldwide.  In addition, these committees create value for the various stakeholders by cooperatively establishing common technical standards and developing shared technical solutions that no one organization could develop independently. 

The ARINC Standards represent a long-term investment in the future of the aviation industry. Years of success has shown substantial benefits – especially to the airlines – of their continued participation in standards creation and use.

"If the airlines want to continue to be part of the solution and have input into what technical and operational capability goes into aircraft, then they need to actively support the AEEC," according to Arnold Oldach, an aviation industry expert with experience at both airlines (United Parcel Service) and major suppliers (Honeywell and Rockwell Collins).

The standards promote competition among airframers and suppliers, provide interchangeability of components, and standardize maintenance procedures.  They also provide a critical starting point for avionics development and allow aircraft manufacturers to pre-wire aircraft to ensure that cost-effective avionics and new installations are compatible.

The 1999 study from Georgia State University's Aviation Policy Research program estimated the savings to the airlines from avionics standardization to be $291 million annually ($433 million in 2018 dollars).  While the economics and business models of the airlines have changed significantly in the intervening years, the impact of AEEC standards continues to have a major positive impact on reducing aircraft construction and maintenance costs.  One airline representative recently remarked that if lessons learned helped reduce only two or three canceled flights per year, those cost savings would more than make up for that airline's annual membership fee support.

Despite record airline profits of $38 billion in 2017, participation in the development of these worldwide standards is not evenly distributed across carriers, nor is the funding properly distributed among operators.  US and European airlines continue to shoulder the majority of effort in creating new international standards, with limited participation from carriers based in Asia, the Pacific Rim, South America, Africa and India.  This creates an opportunity for high growth region airlines to increase participation and have a voice in helping shape the standards that are critical to their operations.

AEEC Membership is open to airline operators, airframe manufacturers, general aviation, and the military.  These organizations fund a portion of the AEEC work program and are eligible to be voting members of the AEEC Executive Committee.  Supplier companies and other organizations that benefit from doing business with the airlines are invited to participate as Corporate Sponsors.

Benefits of AEEC membership include:

  • Improving the efficiency of air transportation through the development of new operating concepts and technologies.
  • Influencing the development of new aircraft and derivatives.
  • Shaping aircraft capabilities necessary for operating in NextGen, SESAR, and CARATS airspace environments.
  • Developing consensus-based industry standards reflecting the collective views of aircraft operators, airframe manufacturers, equipment suppliers, regulators, and other stakeholders.
  • Developing meaningful knowledge and relationships that strengthen companies’ operations.
  • Ensuring the viability of AEEC as a long-standing technical resource for the airline industry.

While the benefits of AEEC participation to companies are substantial, the opportunities for professional development and networking is another great reason to join aviation industry professionals.

"In my 30 years of participation and chairing groups, I benefited hugely.  It gave me the background and knowledge to be effective in my professional career," stated Oldach.  "We all stand on the shoulders of those who went before us, but what happens if we don't get our next generation of participation.  Whose shoulders do we stand on?"

Consolidation of airlines has resulted in fewer individuals with the aircraft engineering background needed to provide ongoing product development guidance to the airframers and suppliers. This creates an opportunity for professionals in the aviation industry to become involved and grow as leaders in the industry through their technical contributions.

The AEEC General Session is an ideal opportunity for aviation industry professionals to obtain an overview of the important technical developments in air transport avionics and other aircraft electronics.  The AEEC General Session initiates new standards and it marks the culmination of the standards development work for that year.  In effect, the airline agenda is the AEEC agenda.

For those industry professionals that wish to become further involved, the AEEC Executive Committee serves in a leadership role for ARINC standards development and coordinates nearly 25 AEEC subcommittees which produce the ARINC standards. For more information about the role of the AEEC, feel free to contact the AEEC Executive Secretary and Program Director, Paul Prisaznuk ([email protected]).

An Overview of Important ARINC Standards

AEEC has developed ARINC Standards since its inception in 1949.  Hundreds of ARINC Standards are actively used to enable avionics development, and dozens more are in some stage of development and adoption.  Standards fall into three different classes:

  • ARINC Characteristics define the form, fit, function and interfaces of avionics equipment
  • ARINC Specifications are used to define either the physical packaging or mounting of avionics equipment or data communications standards or high-level computer languages
  • ARINC Reports provide guidelines or general information that the airlines find to be best practices, often related to avionics maintenance and support

Some of the most important ARINC Standards include:

  • ARINC 424 enables database suppliers, avionics systems, and other users with an international standard file format for aircraft navigation data, including airports, heliports, runways, waypoints, navaids, airways, and arrival and departure routes.
  • ARINC 429 is the cost-effective, high integrity digital avionics data bus standard used in the air transport industry for more than 40 years.
  • ARINC 664 defines the use of a deterministic Ethernet network as an avionic databus in modern aircraft like the Airbus A380 and A220, Boeing 787 Dreamliner, and Sukhoi Superjet 100.
  • ARINC 653 is a software specification for space and time partitioning in safety-critical avionics Real Time Operating Systems (RTOS) to ensure that one application's failure cannot bring down another.
  • ARINC 658 was prepared to recognize the expanding role of data communication technology and the evolutionary path forward starting from ACARS protocols, to ATN/OSI protocols, and eventually ATN/IPS protocols using highly secure networks.
  • ARINC 708 defines the characteristics of airborne weather radar (WXR) equipment for weather detection, ranging, and analysis, as well as ground mapping for navigation by significant land contours.
  • ARINC 702 outlines the characteristics of flight management systems, including performance data, computations, fuel management, navigation, and guidance to a desired flight plan.  The standard was updated in 2018 to include advanced functions such as GNSS and RNP based navigation, air-to-ground data links for communications and surveillance, and associated crew interface control and display definitions.
  • ARINC 717 defines the Flight Data Recorder (FDR) and ARINC 757 defines the Cockpit Voice Recorder (CVR) that together comprise the "black box" used to preserve data for the investigation of aviation accidents and crashes.
  • ARINC 741/761/771/781 are various satellite communications (SATCOM) standards that support air-ground communications, improved network performance, increased uniformity in data service provider interfaces, and expanded Air Traffic Services (ATS).
  • ARINC 718 describes the operational capabilities of a transponder for air traffic control and ancillary communications capabilities.
  • ARINC 735B enables improvements in aircraft situation awareness, and ADS-B, all contributing to safe aircraft operation.