Airbus A350 software bug forces airlines to turn planes off and on every 149 hours

Patch your damn metal bird, the EU aviation agency sighs

  Airbus A350-1000

An Airbus promotional image of an A350-1000. Its sister type, the A350-941, is the affected model of a passenger plane

Some models of Airbus A350 aircraft must still be restarted after 149 hours, despite warnings from the Aviation Security Agency of the EU (EASA) issued for the first time two years.

In a mandatory airworthiness (AD) directive that was reissued earlier this week, EASA urged operators to turn their A350s on and off to avoid "the partial or total loss of some avionics systems or functions" .

The revised AD, effective as of tomorrow (July 26), exempts only the new A350-941 that have uploaded the modified software on the production line. For all other A350-941, operators must completely turn off the aircraft before it reaches 149 hours of continuous ignition.

Worriedly, the original AD of 2017 came about "events in service where there is a loss of communication. It occurred between some avionics systems and the avionics network" (sic) . The impact of the failures varied from "loss due to redundancy" to "complete loss in a specific function housed in the common remote data concentrator and in the input / output modules of the central processing".

In simple English, this means that before 2017, at least some flying passengers of the A350 suffered unexplained failures of digital systems potentially critical for flight.

The rival of Airbus, Boeing, publicly suffered a similar problem related to the weather with his 787 Dreamliner: in 2015 a memory overflow error was discovered that caused The 787 generators will shut down after 248 days of continuous ignition. It was found that a software counter in the generators firmware would overflow after that precise time. The Registry is aware that this is not the only problem related to the software that has plagued 787 during its previous years.

It is common for airplanes to remain on while they are parked at the airport doors. It can carry out routine system checks between flights, especially if the aircraft is grounded.

The remedy for the A350-941 problem is simple according to the AD: install Airbus software updates for a permanent cure, or change the plane

Flying through the rabbit hole

A publication Airbus marketing (PDF) of 2013 explains that the units of the Common Remote Data Concentrator (CRDC) of the A350 were designed to "allow a significant simplification of wiring", with an airspace the trade magazine will deepen in greater depth to explain that the newest Airbus design for airplanes has 29 CRDCs "distributed by the aircraft" and that they work in conjunction with 21 modules of the Core Processing Input Input Module (CPIOM), interfacing with various systems and sensors.

The CRDC takes input data (for example, the exact position of a flight control surface) and converts it into an ARINC 429 compatible digital signal for transmission through the A350's internal network to a CPIOM. That network works through a protocol developed by Airbus called ADFX, or Avionics Full-Duplex Switched Ethernet. The CPIOM is effectively a mini computer; in the A350, CPIOMs execute discrete avionics "applications" in the sense of the applications. The CRDCs themselves do not host or run applications, suggesting that the detailed failure condition in EASA AD may mean the loss of a particular application in a CPIOM after a buffer overflow.

A Delta Airlines training manual at Scribd, from all locations, explains What are the CPIOM applications of the A350. They include: the amount of fuel and the management system, which tells pilots how much juice their bird has drunk; the cabin pressure control system; ice protection systems on the wings; the engine air purge system, which among other things supplies oxygen to the passenger cabin for you to breathe; and the landing gear extension and retraction system.

airbus a350 software bug forces airlines to turn planes off and on every 149 hours Excerpt from the A350 avionics training manual of Delta Airlines. Click to enlarge

Airlines that acquire the A350-941 model subject to the EASA AD include Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa, as well as Air China and China Airlines of Taiwan. Both British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are buying A350-1041, which are a different model of the affected A350-941.

There is no A350 (ICAO codes A359 and A35K) currently in the UK register, although the records have been reserved for those acquired by British airlines.

Airbus PR representatives did not respond to multiple requests for comment. ®

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