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FAA concerned that external digital sources could connect with Gulfstream G280’s flight control systems

Gulfstream G280

The Federal Aviation Administration has issued “special conditions” related to a new two-engine jet transport airplane, the Gulfstream G280, that will require the manufacturer to ensure that external sources cannot exploit a vulnerability in the plane’s digital architecture and network configuration and connect to the aircraft’s flight control system or its airline information services.

“Previously these functions and services had very limited connectivity with external sources,” explained the FAA in a notice it published in the Federal Register on June 18. “The architecture and network configuration may allow the exploitation of network security vulnerabilities resulting in intentional or unintentional destruction, disruption, degradation, or exploitation of data, systems, and networks critical to the safety and maintenance of the airplane.”

To address these security concerns, the FAA requires Gulfstream Aerospace LP, which builds the plane, to adhere to three “special conditions”: ( 1 ) the airplane must ensure that its electronic systems are protected from external sources, ( 2 ) that security threats are identified and assessed, and ( 3 ) the company must establish procedures that will allow the airplane’s operator to ensure the continued airworthiness of the aircraft.

The Gulfstream G280 has a maximum takeoff weight of nearly 40,000 pounds and can carry a maximum of 19 passengers (though it is currently configured to carry only a pilot and co-pilot.)

The company applied for a type certificate for this new model in March of 2006, says the FAA’s notice.

The FAA invites members of the public to comment by August 2 on its newly-issued special conditions, which drew no comments from the public when they were originally announced.

The FAA issued its new special conditions because the existing set of regulations would not have provided adequate safeguards, it said.

“The existing regulations and guidance material did not anticipate these types of airplane system architectures,” the FAA observed. “Furthermore, 14 CFR regulations and current system safety assessment policy and techniques do not address potential security vulnerabilities, which could be exploited by unauthorized access to airplane systems, data buses, and servers.”

Gulfstream Aerospace Corp. announced on March 2 that its Gulfstream G280 has received a provisional type certificate (PTC) from the FAA. It obtained a PTC from the Civil Aviation Authority of Israel (CAAI) on Dec. 29, 2011.

“The principal remaining item required before full type certificates are issued by the FAA and CAAI is an update to the software for the aircraft’s state-of-the-art avionics,” said the company in a press release issued on March 2. “Gulfstream expects to receive full type certification from both later this year.”

Further information is available from Varun Khanna, of the FAA’s airplane and flight crew interface branch, at 425-227-1298.



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