The Airbus 340 flight control system

This case study describes the architecture of the Airbus 340 flight control system, a safety critical system that implements the fly-by-wire flight system on the Airbus.

The Airbus A340 is a long-haul aircraft that includes a critical fly-by-wire flight control system that mediates pilot commands and controls flight surface actuators. This is a development of the first fly-by-wire system which was introduced in the Airbus A320 aircraft. It is of particular interest because of the approach used for hardware and software redundancy.

There is an excellent description of this system in Safety-Critical Computer Systems, (External link). Neil Storey. Addison Wesley, 1996.

Use of this case study in teaching

I use this case study in conjunction with Chapter 11, which covers reliability engineering. The computers used in the Airbus FCS are organized using the self-monitoring architectural pattern discussed in Chapter 11. It is an excellent illustration of using redundancy and diversity in a safety-critical system.

Supporting documents

General information on Airbus A340 aircraft (External link)

Overview of flight control system.  My Powerpoint presentation prepared from the case study in Storey’s book that give an overview of the A340 system.

The Airbus flight control system.  My video explaining the software and hardware architecture of the Airbus 340 flight control system.

More detailed information on the Airbus A340 flight control system- from a course given at the University of Twente, used with permission.

Part 1- Airbus 330/340 FCS System specification
Part 2- Airbus 330/340 FCS

Report on RISKS of problems with A340 system (External link)  Problems were experienced on landing an A340 at Heathrow Airport London. This is a brief discussion of these problems and the causes that were identified in the subsequent incident report. The plane landed safely.