I know there are many types of flight computer systems, with varying names and capabilities.

I'm more interested in knowing what the computers, themselves, are made of?

They certainly are not "off the shelf" computer components - and are more likely specifically built single-board computer systems running some sort of Real-Time OS. Where can I find out more information about one (and/or purchase one) if I were inclined to test software on one at home?

  • $\begingroup$ What do you mean with "flight system"? A generic airplane? It seems a question not very specific. $\endgroup$ Sep 30, 2016 at 18:48
  • $\begingroup$ @GianniAlessandro I assume most have similarities in hardware (underneath the display and buttons). They almost surely don't have an ASUS motherboard and and Intel SSD "under the hood" - I'm asking what hardware is generally used to create these systems. $\endgroup$
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 30, 2016 at 18:54
  • $\begingroup$ This question seems very broad, not only are there different computers in different systems, but also different systems in different aircraft. $\endgroup$
    – fooot
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:29
  • $\begingroup$ @fooot This question has been answered satisfactorily. See below. No need to attempt to close. $\endgroup$
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:32
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ There are many high level specs available online on manufacturer sites, e.g. this CMA-4000 using a 500 MHz PowerPC cpu. Search e.g. "flight management computer specifications" or similar terms. $\endgroup$
    – mins
    Oct 1, 2016 at 14:37

1 Answer 1


Historically, avionics manufacturers have used off-the-shelf processors on custom circuit cards. Processor selection has been based on getting a reliable processor (established history) at a reasonable price and an expectation that it will be available for a long time. The high turnover (obsolescence) in processor design along with a lack of design integrity in commercial products is causing avionics companies to move towards custom chips. Though some products meet the integrity by using two dissimilar processors (though it doesn't address the obsolescence issue). I am aware of a number of older designs using 486 and PowerPC processors.

Operating systems (just like all the a/c software) have to comply with the appropriate level of DO-178 (currently rev C). In practical terms, that means the OS has to meet DO-178 Level A. There are a number of commercial solutions available. LynxOS-178 is one. Integrity-178 is available from Green Hills. Wind River also has a product available.

  • $\begingroup$ Exactly the information I was looking for. Thank you. $\endgroup$
    – SnakeDoc
    Sep 30, 2016 at 19:32
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    $\begingroup$ This book seems to have lots of information on hardware and software (realtime OS VxWorks) used on the 787. $\endgroup$
    – kebs
    Sep 30, 2016 at 21:33

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