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DO-178C and the Overarching Properties Initiative

George Romanski

Chief Scientific and Technical Advisor, Computer Aircraft Software at the Federal Aviation Administration

Aviation regulations require a high degree of confidence that systems controlling or assisting the pilot to control aircraft do not compromise safety.  Many of these controls are provided through Software or Airborne Electronic Hardware.  The current prescriptive approach to the certification of these systems have been used successfully for many years, but with the increase in the size and complexity the verification costs are becoming disproportionate with the development costs. 

When safety enhancing component use is optional, there is a balance between the improvement in safety and the acquisition cost of a certified product.  The FAA and EASA, with the help of some partners are working to provide alternatives to the existing guidance documents such as DO-178 and DO-254 to make the development, verification and approval of airborne systems more flexible. 

The “Overarching Properties” provide a framework to show that a product possesses the characteristics that make it compliant with the intended behavior and safety, relying an assurance cases to provide appropriate evidence.

The “Abstraction Layer” is an initiative to capture the intent of the existing guidance and describe this at a higher level that captures the intent and meaning of these documents.  This will support the evaluation of other standards and methodologies to demonstrate they are adequate alternatives, or to document the gaps. 

The two initiatives are still in their early stages, but the hope is that by offering different paths to approval, the innovation in the aviation sector will continue to thrive and prosper without compromising safety.  

About George Romanski

George Romanski started working at the FAA in 2017 as a Chief Scientific & Technical Advisor for Aircraft Computer Software. In this role, he is involved in developing rules, guidance, regulations, and technical standards to help industry and regulators maintain a safety framework for aircraft computer software. This involves encouraging collaboration between many stakeholders and embracing forward-looking initiatives to ensure that the development and certification processes become more efficient without compromising safety. At present, he is participating in a working group that is developing a streamlined approach to certification. Mr. Romanski knows that by anticipating and preparing for future needs, he can encourage industry and regulators to work in partnership which benefit all who fly. George Romanski started his professional career as a graduate Programmer in 1970. For the next 20 years he developed compilers, run-time systems, and gradually moved to focusing on real-time systems. In 1990, Mr. Romanski started work on Safety Critical Systems and formed a team specializing in software certification for the aviation industries. In 1999 he co-founded Verocel, a company that developed tools and supports certification projects for companies that want this performed independently. As CEO, Mr. Romanski led the company to develop plans and procedures that were compliant with aviation needs and many other standards to support a number of different industries. Recently, he was involved in working groups that developed DO-178C and supplements, DO-248C, ARINC-653, and many others. Through his direct involvement on many certification projects he has a wealth of experience in showing compliance with the safety regulations.

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