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Looking at ARP4754 & ARP4761: A Case Study for The Twin Pillars of Aviation Safety

Posted: February 8, 2022

In modern transportation, creating and measuring safe practices in aviation is streamlined through industry standardization—though that wasn’t always the case.

Prior to the 1990s, there was no agreed-upon method between airplane manufacturers to assess the safety of the vehicles they were constructing, and safety statistics were scattered and hard to communicate. Industry leaders and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) sought a more robust universal procedure to define aircraft safety, and SAE International stepped in to lead to a standardized solution.

The SAE S-18 Aircraft & Systems Development and Safety Assessment committee was formed in 1992 and tasked by the FAA to develop vital safety guidelines and practices for the mobility industry. In 1996, the S-18 committee released two standards that are known today as the twin pillars of modern aviation safety:

  • ARP4754: Guidelines for Development of Civil Aircraft and Systems
  • ARP4761: Guidelines and Methods for Conducting the Safety Assessment Process on Civil Airborne Systems and Equipment.

 “ARP4754 is a ‘what to do’ book, and ARP4761 gives you the steps involved in how to do that. It was the combination of these two recommended practices that gave us the process, methods and tools to be able to say, yes, the systems and equipment on today’s aircraft are safe,” said Eric Peterson, FAA aerospace safety engineer and S-18 committee member.

Both documents have been maintained through collaboration by the S-18 committee and remain today as a part of a vital framework for risk mitigation in civil aviation. Today SAE provides over 50 titles, including technical papers, journal articles, research reports and books that focus on communicating the details and nuances of the ARP4754 standard. SAE also partners with aviation certification company AFuzion to offer ARP4754A compliance planning templates and checklists that provide audit evidence to conform with the standard.

The work on these standards serves as a model of what intelligent and responsive standards systems should be—an organized effort to reach consensus with a focused ability to reach to technological change and improve industry outcomes. This development process allows professionals to share ideas, collaborate on solutions, and potentially walk away with advanced knowledge. SAE works as the convenor of subject matter experts to make these kinds of solutions possible.

“SAE has always helped run and facilitate all of our conversations towards improving these standards and creating new standards to address topical issues. They have been really engaged with S-18 in particular to make sure that we have the right participants from the growing diversity of platforms and technologies that are out there so we make sure our standards can perpetuate into the future,” said Bob Voros, Systems Safety Lead at Merlin Labs and current chair of the SAE S-18 committee.

These processes are still in use today and will continue to guide the design of aircraft systems tomorrow. And, most importantly, it is still helping to keep people safe.

Dive deeper into the impact of ARP4754 and ARP4754A have had on the industry by checking out our case study The Twin Pillars of Aviation Safety.