Honeywell was to develop the cockpit's primary flight controls in two
projects, the Boeing 777's Airplane Information Management System and
its Air Data/Inertial Reference System. For these projects, Honeywell
purchased DDC-I, Inc.'s Ada Compiler System, using it as the front-end
source for Honeywell's symbolic debugger. The two companies worked
together for a year and a half to build the compiler's final debugger
and the entire back-end, targeted to an Advanced Micro Devices (AMD)
29050 microprocessor. According to a recent telephone interview with
Jeff Greeson, Honeywell's project leader for the 777 project's
engineering, the companies "were able to build into the compiler a lot
of optimization features specific to our hardware."
selected Alsys' Ada software development tools for the brake control
system project. The supplier used AdaWorld cross compilers with the
Smart Executive and Certification package to ensure meeting real-time
and FAA requirements. The compilers are hosted on Hewlett-Packard HP
9000/300 platforms; they targeted the Motorola 58333 microcontroller,
making Hydro-Aire one of the first companies to use the new chip.
777's brake control system includes two Motorola microcontrollers
programmed entirely in Ada. Harry Hansen, Hydro-Aire's Manager of
Software Engineering reported that "We find Ada an excellent language
for the development of real-time applications." The processors control
the built-in test (BIT) and auto-brake functions. The BIT includes
both an on-line interface to the central maintenance computer and
off-line maintenance capability. The auto-brake applies the correct
amount of brake pressure during landings and applies the maximum
amount of pressure -- without causing a tire blow-out -- during
aborted take-offs. Additionally, the system includes hardware and
software to prevent skids, sensors and transducers to external
systems, and hydraulic valves.
Sundstrand, too, chose a compiler from
Alsys, Inc. (now Thomson Software Products, Inc.). Running on a PC
host, it generated code targeted to an Intel 80186 microprocessor. The
Certifiable Small Ada Run Time (CSMART) executive code that interfaces
with the language resides inside the run-time controller and,
therefore, had to be tested and verified. It was a major undertaking,
but not a long-term inconvenience. "Ada continues to be our baseline
language for future electrical systems," Teske said, "for reasons of
cost and efficiency. We are now able to reuse code. We pull out
certain chunks of airplane software and put them into new projects."
In a recent telephone interview, senior software engineer Malkit Rai,
who led the effort on the Sundstrand 777 electrical power project,
agreed on the importance of Ada's support for reuse. Ada has
permanently replaced the shop's previous high-level language, PLM,
which was developed by Intel and is based on PL/I. "Ten to 15 percent
of the 777 Main Channel Electrical Power Generating System is already
in reuse," he said. Two new projects, for the Gulfstream V business
jet and the Comanche helicopter, were able to integrate Sundstrand's
library of common generic packages written in Ada for the 777.
fact, the Sundstrand power systems' 80,000 lines of code were in
themselves reused by 10 to 15 percent. The embedded software's small
size proves that Ada is well-suited for projects under 100,000 lines
of code, as well as for large efforts. The 777's Cabin Management
System, for example, is a communications module mounted on the 777's
back seats and offers passengers a variety of services and is only
Putting Together a New Architecture
In comparison, Honeywell's Airplane Information Management System
(AIMS) project consists of the largest central computer on the
jetliner; it runs 613,000 new lines of code (defined as body
semicolons), taking up 15,656 kilobytes (KB) of disk space and 4,854
KB of random-access memory (RAM). With redundancy, the software runs
to 46,191 KB and 10,732 KB of RAM. A multiprocessor, rack-mounted
system, the AIMS replaced many of the line-replaceable units and
reduced hardware and software redundancy.
Two AIMS boxes handle the
six primary flight and navigation displays: two sets are located in
front of both the captain and copilot so that they can move from one
seat to the other, and two central sets of engine parameters are
shared by the pilots. The primary flight instruments indicate pitch
and roll attitude, direction, air speed, rate of climb, altitude, etc.
The AIMS also includes the central maintenance function, which
receives reports from the 777's other computers and then gathers the
data into a central maintenance report for the mechanic. Its
monitoring system gathers data on how other functions are doing, and
can determine, for example, that an engine is degrading, before it
actually fails. Other AIMS functions include a data-conversion
gateway, flight data acquisition, data loading, an Ada conversion
gateway, and thrust management.
Honeywell's massive effort on the 777
involved over 550 software developers. The company built the AIMS
computer as a custom platform based on the AMD 29050 processor. It was
unique among aviation systems for integrating the other computers'
functions; in other systems, each function resides in a different box
[the central maintenance had its own box with its own input/output
(I/O), its own central processing unit (CPU), etc.]. AIMS combines all
these functions and shares the CPU and I/O among them: it uses the
same signals for flight management and for displays, so that the data
comes in only once instead of twice; one input circuit provides data
to all of the functions; each of the functions gets a piece of the
CPU, as in a mainframe computer, where systems use part of the CPU but
not all of it; and every function is guaranteed its time slot.
Engineer Jeff Greeson said that "The federated system is obsolete.
Putting all the functions in one box is a jump ahead in technology
that we've brought to the industry."
Another innovation is that the
disk drive can read files formatted for the Microsoft Disk Operating
System, which provides maintenance with access to the terminal
communications. The mechanics can transfer files for data loading over
the airplane bus, because Honeywell built the program to accept new
data and to change the software. In fact, most of the equipment on the
airplane has that ability, only a few classic systems do not (such as
the ground-proximity warning system, which has proven sufficiently
trustworthy and not in need of change).
Designing a new architecture
simultaneously with a new language was "quite exciting," Greeson said.
"The organizational details were difficult to put together." With Ada,
managers were able to delegate the seven main functions to groups of
60-100 software engineers. The separate software entities have minimal
interface with other parts of the software, and not all of the
software is integrated. By working with loosely coupled pieces, the
project leaders were able to farm out the functions to other groups.
The loose integration, however, does not tie the software to the 777
platform, and will assist in Honeywell's using the code for other
targets. "We needed the maximum ability to port it to other places,"
The data interfaces that do exist between the software
units are fairly uniform, Greeson said, because Ada helped the
software engineers to implement certain rules at compilation time.
"Ada forces you keep it straight there rather than at the lab," he
said, "where it helped minimize our difficulties in getting it
integrated and running." Because of the high level of accuracy during
the compilation, less time was spent on debugging the code. Thus,
Honeywell's initial study proved correct. "I'm convinced that, because
of Ada, we had a minimal amount of interface problems, with which we
would have killed ourselves if we had had C or Pascal," Greeson
concluded. "It went much smoother than past programs."