The Importance of Being Standardized

(This is part one of a two-part article on aviation industry standards, with this article discussing the need for standards and how they emerge. The next part will cover one of the most widely used international industry standards – the Air Transport Association (ATA) standards. There are many more industry standards, but from an aftermarket point of view, ATA Spec 2000 is one of the key means of transacting aircraft parts-related business, as well as other ATA standards covering flight operations and security (among other topics), so these were chosen to be explored further. Here we are covering the overview of why standards are important and the process of how they come to be, as well as identifying many of the key standards.)

Aviation is a vast global industry composed of tens of thousands of interconnected suppliers, service providers, operators and various types of regulators. Each of these has a different purpose, with the term “coopetition” (a combination of cooperation and competition) being the norm. In fact, it could be argued that the industry could not survive without these two diverging maxims, since competition may drive innovation/jobs/growth, but cooperation is the glue that keeps it all together.

Nowhere is this lesson better demonstrated than with the myriad of industry standards which are used in designing systems, components and aircraft, as well as defining how entities work together or share information. Without a strong set of common criteria, aviation simply could not function.

Birth of a Standard

Before we touch on some of the more important industry standards, it’s important to understand how many of the existing standards have been defined. A majority of these were developed by industry and not by governments or regulators, in order to facilitate new or emerging business needs. Most aviation-related companies of size are members of one or more industry associations or standards organizations, which are tasked with (among other goals) defining common criteria/standards/policies that no single organization could accomplish independently.


Standards committees are a typical means of bringing together interested parties who often represent their company’s interest in how a standard is defined or updated. These committees often takes years to release documents, and depend upon having knowledgeable members who can work through disagreements, proprietary approaches, and varying levels of commitment, in order to release an accepted standards document. In fact, if you have never personally served on such a committee, I would urge that you do so for various reasons. Primarily, the experience gained in helping define something greater is simply invaluable, and goes far beyond just filling in a line on a resume or a job application. You will also be exposed to other viewpoints on a topic and gain some new insights. And, not to be forgotten, the value of having industry contacts and relationships should never be underestimated. Being part of such an effort can be frustrating at times, but the rewards often far outweigh the negatives.

Standards efforts are also a good place for competitors to come together to address shared concerns, and have these concerns addressed in a singular voice. It would not often be possible for any single company to set a standard for all to follow, and not face some sort of legal actions. As such, standards efforts driven by industry groups create a means to move an industry forward in an economical and legally-acceptable manner.

Participation by various governments, particularly the U.S. in our case, is also essential to gaining acceptance for such efforts. An FAA or other governmental representatives may often participate or observe a standards committee in action, and signal if the direction is something the government is not comfortable with (usually in regards to new technologies affecting regulatory processes). Such efforts help the industry in moving forward new ideas, and help the government understand where industry advancements are taking aviation. In fact, one can argue that such cooperative situations are one of the more positive ways for government and industry to interact — a “win-win” situation for all concerned.

It’s important to understand the typical process for such efforts so that you appreciate how human nature comes into play, as synopsized in Figure 1:

Once you understand how this process works, you can participate effectively and use it to your benefit. Creating or updating industry standards is difficult, since a wide variety of factors need to be considered, such as safety, economic impacts, and how to address emerging technology issues. Every standard has a finite life, and in today’s quickly changing world, the length of time that a standard is valid is continually shrinking.

The World of Aviation Standards

While we cannot hope to cover the thousands of industry standards in this article (a large book or encyclopedia is needed), we will provide you with an overview of many of the key families of standards and publications that you need to be aware of. Please use the following as a ‘sampling’ of key standards families, and not an exhaustive list:


Aircraft Fleet Recycling Association (AFRA) is recognized as the leading global industry association dedicated to pursuing and promoting environmental best practice, regulatory excellence and sustainable developments in aircraft disassembly, as well as the salvaging and recycling of aircraft parts and materials.

Key Documents/Standards

• Best Management Practice for Management of Used Aircraft Parts and Assemblies


The Aerospace Industries Association (AIA), founded in 1919, is the premier trade association representing the major U.S. aerospace companies. Today, more than 300 major aerospace and defense companies and their suppliers are members of the association, embodying every high-technology manufacturing segment of the U.S. aerospace and defense industry from commercial aviation and avionics, to manned and unmanned defense systems, to space technologies and satellite communications, and defense manufacturers. Following are a sampling of National Aerospace Standards (NAS) from AIA:

Key Documents/Standards

• NAS410: NAS certification and qualification of nondestructive test personnel

• NAS412: Foreign object damage/foreign object debris (FOD) prevention

• NASM33540: Safety wiring, safety cabling, cotter pinning, general practices

• NASM16555: PIN, Straight…

AIA, in coordination with the Department of Defense, has converted more than500 MIL-specs to NAS. These converted documents carry a “NASM” (for inch-based) or “NAM” (for Metric-based) prefix. The standard continues to be procured to the MS part number.


With a membership base of more than 400,000 pilots and aviation enthusiasts in the U.S, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) is the largest, most influential aviation association in the world. AOPA has achieved its prominent position through effective advocacy, enlightened leadership, technical competence and hard work. It provides member services that range from representation at the federal, state and local levels to legal services, advice and other assistance. AOPA staff serve members and provide advocacy on behalf of general aviation on matters affecting airmen, aircraft, operations and international harmonization.

ARINC Industry Activities (IA):AEEC, AMC and FSEMC

ARINC Incorporated organizes aviation industry activities that cooperatively establish voluntary technical standards and develop shared technical solutions. ARINC Industry Activities coordinates and provides the secretariat for the AEEC, AMC, and FSEMC—the Activities, as follows:

• The Airlines Electronic Engineering Committee (AEEC) develops engineering and technical standards for airborne electronics of common interest to all segments of the aviation community.

• The Avionics Maintenance Conference (AMC) develops maintenance-related technical standards.

• The Flight Simulator Engineering and Maintenance Conference (FSEMC) develops technical standards related to simulation and training.

Key Documents/Standards

Sample of active AEEC working groups:

• Air-ground communications system

• Airport mapping database

• ARINC 429 Maintenance

• ARINC Specification 600

• Cabin systems

• Cockpit display system interfaces

• Data link security

• Digital flight data recorder

• Electronic flight bag

Key Documents/Standards

Sample of active AMC/FSEMC working groups:

• Future Concepts for Maintenance (FCM)

• Future Concepts for Simulators

• Simulator Software Working Group (SSG)

• No Fault Found (NFF)

• Simulation Quality Management Systems


The Aeronautical Repair Station Association (ARSA) has a distinguished, 25-plus-year record of representing certificated aviation maintenance and alteration facilities.

Key Documents/Standards


• Domestic Model Canadian Cross-Reference Table with Supplemental Language for Repair Stations Maintaining Complete Canadian-Registered Aircraft Not Operated in Commercial Air Service

• Export Compliance Compendium


The Aviation Suppliers Association (ASA) represents more than 440 global member companies that are positively shaping the aviation industry. Collectively, they lead critical logistics programs, purchasing efforts and distribution of aircraft parts world-wide. The ASA focuses on regulatory and legal matters such as safety, international compliance and ethical business practices that impact the aviation parts supply industry.

Key Documents /Standards

• ASA-100: Aviation Suppliers Association Quality System Standard


The AeroSpace and Defense Industries Association of Europe (ASD) represents the aeronautics, space, defense and security industries in Europe in all matters of common interest with the objective of promoting and supporting the competitive development of the sector. ASD pursues joint industry actions which require to be dealt with on a European level or which concern issues of an agreed transnational nature, and generates common industry positions. ASD has 28 member associations in 20 countries across Europe.

Key Documents /Standards


• S1000D: the International Specification for Technical Publications

ATA/A4A, &

Airlines for America (A4A), formerly known as Air Transport Association (ATA), was the first and remains the only trade organization of the principal U.S. airlines. Its standards are used internationally, and cover e-business, operations and safety.

The ATA e-business program was created to allow for collaboration by the global commercial aviation industry to create standards for information exchange to support engineering, maintenance, material management and flight operations. Members include airlines, aerospace manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, repair agencies, software providers and consultants who jointly develop a variety of standards used to make information exchange easier and more efficient.

Key Documents /Standards


• Spec 2000 Chapter 2: Procurement Planning

• Spec 2000 Chapter 9: Automated Identification and Data Capture (AIDC)

• Spec 2000 Chapter 11: Reliability Data Collection/Exchange

• Spec 2000 Chapter 16: Electronic Parts Certification Forms

• Spec 104: Guidelines for Aircraft Maintenance Training

• Spec 105: Training and Qualifying Personnel in Nondestructive Testing Methods

• Spec 106: Sources and Approved Parts Qualification Guidelines

• SG 903: Recommended Guidelines for Prev/Inv Aircraft Ground Damage

• iSpec2200: Information Standards for Aviation Maintenance

• Spec 42: Aviation Industry Standards for Digital Information Security


EUROCAE is a nonprofit organization which was formed to provide a European forum for resolving technical problems with electronic equipment for air transport, and deals exclusively with aviation standardization (airborne and ground systems and equipment) and related documents as required for use in the regulation of aviation equipment and systems.

Key Documents/Standards


• ED-100A: Interoperability Req’ts for ATS Applications using Arinc 622 Data Communications

• ED-102A: MOPS for 1090 MHz Extended Squitter ADS-B & Traffic Information Services – Broadcast

• ED-103: MOPS for Inflight Icing Detection Systems

• ED-106A: Data Link Application System Document for “Oceanic Clearance” Datalink service

• ED-108A: MOPS for VDL Mode 4 Aircraft Transceiver

• ED-109: Guidelines for CNS/ATM Systems Software Integrity Assurance


General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) has been devoted to one primary purpose: to foster and advance the general welfare, safety, interests and activities of general aviation.

Key Documents /Standards

Sample of standards:

• GAMA ASCB: Avionics Standard Communication Bus

• GAMA CSDB: Commercial Standard Digital Bus

• GAMA Publication 10: Recommended Practices & Guidelines for Part 23 Cockpit/Flight Deck Design        

• GAMA Publication 11: ARINC 429 General Aviation Subset

• GAMA Specification 1: Specification for Pilot’s Operating Handbook


Helicopter Association International (HAI) has brought together the leaders of the international helicopter community. Its membership includes helicopter operators and owners, users, manufacturers and suppliers, service organizations and individuals interested in following the events of the helicopter industry. HAI works on behalf of its members on legislative issues that affect operations. HAI coordinates with international, national and local government authorities, including the FAA and the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), in various matters that impact the businesses of members.


The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is an international trade body, created more than 60 years ago by a group of airlines. IATA represents some 240 airlines comprising 84 percent of total air traffic and also represents, leads and serves the airline industry in general. Among other issues and activities, IATA identifies and develops operational solutions for all areas affecting aircrafts and airlines, either on ground or in flight. This includes the analysis of flight operations data, quality assurance matters and maintenance of the airline operational information exchange.   

Key Documents/Standards

Sampling of publications:

• Dangerous Goods Regulations, 53rd edition

• Airport Handling Manual, 32nd edition

• Safety Report 2010

• World Air Transport Statistics, 55th edition

• Airline Industry Forecast Survey CD-ROM

• Airline Coding Directory, 81st edition

• Multilateral Interline Traffic Agreements Manual (MITA), 87th edition


The International Business Aviation Council (IBAC) is a council of business aviation associations from around the world.

Key Documents /Standards


• International Standard for Business Aircraft Operations (IS-BAO)

• Safety Management System (SMS) Toolkit


International Society of Transport Aircraft Trading (ISTAT) has been dedicated to promoting interest in commercial aviation while providing a forum for those involved in the aviation and supporting industries. ISTAT currently represents more than 2,150 worldwide members who are involved in operating, manufacturing, maintaining, selling, purchasing, financing, leasing, appraising, insuring or other activities.

Key Documents /Standards

• Establishes and promotes standards for many aspects of the purchase or sale of commercial transport aircraft, including appraisals and a code of ethics. Serves as the official voice for the entire commercial transport aircraft secondary marketplace.


Founded in 1947 and based in Washington, D.C., the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) is the leading organization for companies that rely on general aviation aircraft to help make their businesses more efficient, productive and successful. The Association represents more than 8,000 companies and provides more than 100 products and services to the business aviation community, including the NBAA annual meeting and convention, the world’s largest civil aviation trade show.

Key Documents/Standards

Sampling of publications:

• The NBAA Management Guide is an industry how-to manual for business aviation management.

• The Safety Management System (SMS) Toolkit was developed by the International Business Aviation Council (IBAC). The toolkit assists non-commercial operators and on-demand charter operators in developing and implementing a SMS that meets the new ICAO standards and recommend rractices and that the SMS meets regulatory requirements of major aviation authorities globally.


The Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE) International is a global association of more than 128,000 engineers and related technical experts in the aerospace, automotive and commercial vehicle industries. SAE International’s core competencies are life-long learning and voluntary consensus standards development.

Key Documents/Standards


• SAE AIR 5359C: Requirements for Certification/Registration of Aerospace Quality Management Systems

• SAE AIR 5493B: Requirements for Development, Implementation and Control of an Aerospace Auditor Training

• SAE ARP 5151: Safety Assessment of General Aviation Airplanes and Rotorcraft in Commercial Service

• SAE ARP 9005: Aerospace Guidance for Non-Deliverable Software

• SAE ARP 9009: Aerospace Contract Clauses

• AS1290B: Revised Graphic Symbols for Aircraft Hydraulic and Pneumatic Systems

Hopefully this information can serve as a reference for you in the future, and have you consider to one day be part of an industry standards/policies effort. It builds character, boosts your personal and corporate credentials, and makes the world a slightly more standardized place.


John Pawlicki is CEO and principal of OPM Research. He also works with Virtual Security International (VSI), where he consults to the DOT’s Volpe Center, handling various technology and cyber security projects. He managed and deployed various products over the years, including the launch of CertiPath (with world’s first commercial PKI bridge). Pawlicki has also been part of industry efforts at the ATA and other related groups, and was involved in the effort to define and allow the use of electronic FAA 8130-3 forms. He recently completed his writing of the ‘Aerospace Marketplaces Report’ which analyzed third-party sites that support the trading of aircraft parts. For more information, visit

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