As late as the middle 1970s, the phrase kick the
tires and light the fires was the main theme in
launching an aircraft sortie. This meant that as long
as there was an airframe with nothing falling off, an
engine that would start and achieve takeoff speed, and
air in the tires, the aircraft would be launched. This
was done so the pilots would get their flight time
every month. Now the mission has become the prime
objective of the aircraft. This is not meant to belittle
the importance of the engine and airframe.
Obviously, they are important, but the aircraft and
pilots are designated to perform certain missions. The
performance of these missions is dependent upon the
status of the various avionics packages. If one or
more of these packages are degraded or not working
at all, the aircraft is considered to be partial mission
capable or not mission capable.
This lack of mission capability has thrust many an
avionics work center supervisor into the spotlight. If
you are one of the supervisors who has been there,
then you know how pleasant the maintenance chief is
to you. It is then that you realize that aircraft
maintenance is not a game. As we head toward the
21st century, newer and more sophisticated aircraft
are being designed and built. The avionics systems
are becoming more complex, thus allowing the
aircraft to perform more difficult missions. The
increased complexity forces the solutions to problems
in microseconds. The only system capable of
performing these solutions is the computer. In turn,
each associated avionics system will act as a sensor
that feeds continuously updated information to the
computer. The computer processes the data and sends
out information to where it is needed.
Because computers are used so extensively in
Navy aircraft, the avionics supervisor must have a
basic understanding and working knowledge of
Learning Objective: Identify computer
hardware and software.
The electronic components of a computer are
commonly called hardware. Examples of computer
hardware are cathode-ray tubes, transistors,
microchips, printed circuit cards, etc. Software, on
the other hand, is a term that is applied to a set of
computer programs, procedures, and possibly
associated documentation concerned with the
operation of a data processing system. Software
includes compilers, assemblers, executional routines,
and input/output libraries. The advances in computer
software provide the industry with the greatest realm
of application possibilities. The problem of
attempting to communicate with a computer has led to
the development of symbolic languages that approach
human language. The fact that a person can tell a
computer what to do, just as one directs the actions of
another person, has been made possible by the
advances in software.
Software is also used to overcome design
deficiencies in computers. Programming around
design deficiencies is a common practice in the
computer industry. Software is, in fact, often used to
determine design feasibility. The practice of
designing a computer with a computer is a common
practice of design engineers.
Perhaps the best software application has been in
the area of real-time processing. Real-time
processing is a situation where the data is submitted to
a computer, and an immediate response is obtained.
The capability of a computer to perform real-time
processing could determine the success or failure of
an aircrafts mission.
Programming in a universal language has led to
the development and refinement of a number of
computer languages. Many of these languages are for
a special area or purpose. For example, FORTRAN
(FORmula Translator) for business and scientific
programs, COBOL (COmmon Business Oriented
Language) for business, and Jovial for large scale,
computer-based, command and control systems.
PL/1 (Programming Language/one) is a language for
real-time systems. Each of the languages fulfills a
specific need for a specific problem, but lacks the
universal ideal application.