A Guide to the Components of the ARINC 429 Labels List

14 May, 2017

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To gain a full appreciation of the meaning encoded within the data words published in the ARINC 429 labels list, you have to understand the purpose of the individual components therein. Some components are obligatorily included as part of data words within this widely used protocol whereas others are optional. Make sure you know as much as possible about the data being transmitted from source to receiver within the ARINC 429 protocol.


The 5 Parts of Data Words on the ARINC 429 Labels List

With a better understanding of the purpose of the individual components of the data words logged in the ARINC 429 labels list, you will be able to use this protocol to achieve everything it was designed to accomplish. All it takes is a careful and considered approach and avionics becomes easy to understand.

The kinds of data words you'll find on an ARINC 429 labels list are 32-bit in nature, and they are made up of 5 separate components which each confer a particular piece of information about the data being sent. Of these 5, only the label and parity components are absolutely mandatory when it comes to sending data words to receivers. Any missing parts can be filled in with zeroes. In full, the 5 parts of each 32-bit data word sent are as follows:

  • Label a.k.a. Information identifier
  • Source or Destination identifier
  • Data
  • Sign or status matrix
  • Parity

 
The transmitters used to transfer data within this protocol are sending this data constantly, whether as data words or in a null state. More than one data word can be sent at once but, generally speaking, the information sent contains a solitary data word consisting of one of the three formats below:

  • Binary data
  • Binary coded decimal data
  • Alphanumeric data using ISO alphabet No. 5

  

The Label

The purpose of the label component is to tell the receiver what kind of data is present within the rest of the data word being sent. When used with receivers that have been programmed to accept up to 255 distinct labels, you'll find each label is 8 bits long and expressed as a 3-digit octal number.

Despite the importance of the label, this part of any data word is counterintuitively found in the location of the least significant bit. However, this does mean the label is the first part of any given data word to be transmitted. As you can see, it's the label component that gives its name to the ARINC 429 labels list itself.


Source/Destination Identifier

This optional extra is found at bits 9 and 10, and it means that you can look at a data word in the ARINC 429 labels list and see the source of the transmission right away. This information allows you to better interpret the rest of the data word.


Data Component

You can use the other parts to make sense of the main data component, which itself may be encoded in one of several formats. The data types available to this component of the ARINC 429 protocol are as follows:

  • Binary
  • Binary coded decimal
  • Discrete
  • Maintenance and acknowledgement
  • Williamsburg/Buckhorn protocol

 

Sign/Status Matrix

The function of this component depends on the data type being sent. Some of the potential functions available include the sign or direction of data and the current status of reporting equipment. As such, this section is an important and varied part of the data words you'll find on your ARINC 429 labels list.


Parity

The parity component offers the ARINC 429 protocol a means of error detection but falls short as providing a way to correct them. An odd parity of a single bit is used to make sure that the data received is accurate, and of course, no data word should be transmitted without a parity component. You will find this data bit at the opposite end of the data word to the label component.


The Purpose of Labeling

Ultimately, an ARINC 429 labels list is supposed to identify the type of data being transmitted as part of a data word. This helps with clarifying the exact intent of any instructions sent or the proper use of any data collected and reported.

If the octal label is not enough to help you to elucidate what the transmitted data means, you can sometimes find additional information in the first 3 bits of the actual data field. Furthermore, you can look at the hexadecimal values in bits 11 to 13 that comprise the equipment identifier and thus specify the source of the transmission.

When you're in charge of the operation of avionics systems, a likely part of your job description is going to involve a competent understanding of the ARINC 429 protocol and how it is used to send data from one source point to as many as 20 receiver points. Once you comprehend the significance of the components which comprise the data word format used, you can refer to an ARINC 429 labels list without any confusion as to what each label means.


Conclusion

When it comes to fully understanding the information on a ARINC 429 labels list, you have your work cut out for you, but it's an entirely possible task if you know how labels and data words are generated. With this knowledge to hand, you can quickly identify any problems or tasks to resolve within this protocol.

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