Today, Airbus A350 XWB is undoubtedly the most modern and efficient commercial jetliner in the world. Since January 2015, this aircraft is flying worldwide with a high performance robust model-based monitoring method on-boarded. This exceptional achievement has been resulted from an inspiring collaboration between my research team and Airbus on FDIR issues in aircraft systems, starting with mid-2000s. With current airworthiness certification standards in civil aviation, extremely rigorous specifications must be satisfied, not only in nominal flight regimes, but also in extreme, unusual, non-standard/off-nominal and unexpected flight conditions. The certification testifies that new systems meet all requirements set by the aviation regulatory authorities (FDA / EASA), and that they themselves do not introduce new risks. Achieving flight-proven and certified model-based monitoring systems has been a tall order and required several years of research and innovation, ground V&V activities and in-flight tests and maturation.
Five years after the first A350 commercial flight, this note posted on the IFAC Blog and IFAC social media looks back at some lessons learnt from this amazing success story. The note has been prepared by Dr. Philippe Goupil (eXpert FDIR – A/C Control Architecture & Functions, Airbus, Toulouse – France) and myself. See also IFAC Newsletter, December 2020.
What about the aircraft of the 2030s and beyond? In civil aviation operations, the vector is pointed toward more autonomy and intelligence in the cockpit. Future avionics will have to ensure more autonomy and must provide safety functionalities at least equivalent to those of today blended-crew task environments, while coupled to a new cockpit concept. Solving the puzzle of autonomy requires new concepts and cross-domain methods. Some of these questions are investigated within COCOTIER and SAFE-OPERA projects.
An exhaustive discussion can be found in: A. Zolghadri, "On flight operational issues management: Past, present and future". Annual Reviews in Control. Vision article, 2018. pdf file.