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Project Scope

Over 500 KC-135 Stratotankers serve the United States Air Force for inflight refueling. AVISTA participated in a series of military avionics upgrades for the Stratotanker cockpit involving safety-critical systems for enhanced traffic avoidance and ground proximity warning.

These upgrades to the Flight Management System (FMS) were a joint effort with a major aerospace equipment provider with whom AVISTA has worked closely for many years. The project was completed under tight budget and schedule constraints as one of the first government-managed projects under the Lightning Bolt initiative. The FMS was part of a larger system, which included a liquid crystal flat-panel multifunction flight display, and predictive wind shear weather radar.


The AVISTA Team reused existing software and used tight management controls to speed development and ensure quality. Although certification was not required, standards-based development processes were used for a high-quality application.

Key Values / Benefits

AVISTA created more than 130,000 lines of Ada code using the Rational Apex® integrated development environment. Ada compiler generated code was embedded on the target computer, and the various LRU interfaces included multiple MIL-STD-1553 data buses and many ARINC 429 data buses. The product contains three control display units, one acting as the master and the other two acting as slaves. The product also has the ability to read cartridge data including flight planning data, GPS almanac data, magnetic variation tables, and horizontal and vertical navigation capabilities.

The AVISTA team completed the upgrade in just one-third of schedule time.

Multi-year schedule condensed to eight months

Projects of this size may require up to two years of development. Through reuse of existing software and tight management controls, the AVISTA team and its partner completed the cockpit upgrade in an aggressive eight months. The rapid schedule was also possible due to the quick integration of AVISTA's capable and experienced engineering staff with the partner’s engineering staff. More than a dozen software engineers were effectively ramped up on the project within just one week.

Testing onsite produced quick results

A complete cockpit mockup was installed at AVISTA’s facility to enable the team to test the product quickly.

Project completion within budget

AVISTA’s judicious management of project and resource details delivered results ahead of schedule and well within the budget.

AVISTA staffing flexed with project needs

Dedicated staff included program management, team leaders, and quality assurance. During the development cycle, AVISTA staffed the project with lab technicians and as many as 20 software engineers.

AVISTA’s commitment to long-term partnerships

Typical of the company’s long-term partnerships, the FMS experience gained on this project has been leveraged by AVISTA and its partner in subsequent development projects.