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By three methods we may learn wisdom: First, by reflection, which is noblest; Second, by imitation, which is easiest; and third by experience, which is the bitterest.


There is something special about the number three.

There are the three Musketeers (Athos, Porthos, Aramis), three primary colors (in physics and light) (red, blue, green), three wise monkeys (see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil), three Olympic medals (gold, silver, bronze), three traffic light colours (red, yellow, green), three-leaf clovers (symbol of good luck), and a personal favourite, the three flavours of Neapolitan ice cream (vanilla, chocolate, strawberry).

The “Rule of Three”, a renowned writing principle, suggests that when things come in threes, they are inherently funnier, more satisfying, or more effective than other numbers of things.  Think of a famous phrase or slogan and chances are it is structured in three.

We put “blood, sweat and tears” into our effort to get you to “stop, look and listen” when you cross the street. 

In math, any number having a power of three can be written as the cube of that number.  The cube of a number is the number multiplied by itself twice, the cube of the number is represented as the exponent 3 on that number.  Numbers get very big, very fast when you cube them.  For example, if we cube the number 5, it becomes 125.  There is huge amplification in the power of three.

In gaming, we often use the “best two out of three” to decide a match.  If we used the best one out of two – it is a stalemate.  So, the odd value of three creates a 66.6% outcome.  It is deemed to be decisive compared to the power of 2.

In threes, we find comfort, humour, symmetry, balance, and clearly defined and efficient outcomes.  These traits, when combined, are stress reducing.

Michael Baranowsky

So, when Canadian Michael Baranowsky (EAA 1381366) set out to build his airplane (C-FWMB), he decided to pursue a design path built on the number three.  An airplane that was stress free, inherently safer, and more fun to fly.  It possessed all three of these traits because of the power of three.

Many hundreds or even thousands of EAA homebuilders have constructed a Vans RV airplane.  That is not unique.  In fact, it is common amongst homebuilders.  But what Michael did was unusual.  He engineered in triple redundancy in every instrument.

If knowledge is power, then Michael has triple power.

Ed Morson

Along with his close friend and co-builder, Ed Morson (EAA 1389061), these two gentlemen designed an instrument panel like few others.  Is it perfect?  Nothing in life is technically perfect – true perfection is an illusion.  But a design of this calibre has all the required or desirable elements, qualities, or characteristics to be as good as it is possible to be.  A general definition of perfection is the flawless state where everything is just right.  “Perfect” means without any kind of flaw and “perfection” is then the condition where everything is just 100% great.

In critical applications like avionics, where safety is paramount, the additional redundancy of a triple system can be crucial in ensuring the scheme’s continued operation even in the face of multiple failures or faults.  Triple redundancy is often used for vital systems like flight control and navigation, whereas less critical systems may use double redundancy or even single redundancy in some cases.

Triple redundancy in avionics significantly enhances reliability and safety, but it is important to note that its effectiveness depends on various factors, including the quality of system design, maintenance, and the specific avionic systems in question.  Statistically, triple redundancy is designed to provide an extremely high level of reliability, with the goal of reducing the probability of a critical system failure to an exceedingly low level.

Triple redundancy in avionics refers to a design principle that involves having three separate and independent systems or components performing the same function within an aircraft’s control or monitoring systems.  This redundancy is a critical safety measure to enhance reliability and fault tolerance in aviation systems.  If one of the three systems fails or produces erroneous data, the other two can cross-check and outvote the faulty one, helping to ensure the accuracy and reliability of critical avionic functions, such as navigation or flight control.  Triple redundancy significantly reduces the risk of system failures and is a key element in aviation safety standards.

Typically, avionic systems are designed to meet stringent safety standards, and the probability of failure per flight hour is extremely low.  The specific reliability and failure rate statistics can vary depending on the system, manufacturer, and aircraft type.

For critical avionics systems, the goal is often to achieve a probability of failure per flight hour (PFFH) in the range of 10^-9 to 10^-7.  This means that the probability of a failure occurring in a critical system during one flight hour is between 1 in a billion (10^-9) and 1 in ten million (10^-7).  Achieving such low failure rates is essential for ensuring pilot and passenger safety and the overall reliability of aviation systems.

Triple redundancy plays a crucial role in achieving these low failure rates by providing multiple layers of protection against faults and failures.  However, it is important to remember that these statistics are based on extensive testing, modeling, and analysis, and they are subject to continuous improvement and monitoring in the aviation industry to maintain and enhance safety standards.

Michael and Ed both practice the Japanese martial arts discipline of Karate.   This is where they met many years ago.  There are many reasons why people turn to martial arts: Some want to defend themselves, and some join for spirituality.  Everybody is searching for meaning, as without an aim, we are lost.  When we fix a goal, the path appears, and to find the meaning of life we must walk the path and let life blossom from there.  Using these ancient Japanese lessons to guide their engineering thinking and processes, they pursued a path for an instrument panel that offered peace, ease, and reduced stress in flying the airplane.  The design was not driven solely on bits and bytes, of course these technical attributes were present, but to design to a higher level you need to look beyond the numbers and find the qualities that make flying more fun.

Every aspect of this RV instrument panel is triple redundant.

They can tolerate catastrophic failure of two complete and stand-alone systems and still have a third system ready for use to safely fly home and arrive alive.

Statistically, the odds of failure are hard to calculate.  The answer is in the many millions to one.  Your odds of winning the lottery are close by.

In engineering, redundancy is the duplication of critical components or functions of a system with the intention of increasing reliability and decreasing the failure rate of the system, usually in the case of fail-safe designs found in space crafts, nuclear plants, and other systems that if they failed would result in unacceptable losses.  We expect triple redundancy in commercial airplanes.  But, to have it all within a general aviation airplane is extraordinary.

When a workload utilizes multiple, independent, and redundant subsystems, it can achieve a higher level of theoretical availability than by using a single subsystem.  For example, consider a workload composed of two identical subsystems.  It can be completely operational if either subsystem one or subsystem two is operational.  For the whole system to be down, both subsystems must be down at the same time.  Now, add the power of three to make the overarching system provide three independent and redundant subsystems.  The panels robustness is dramatically enhanced.  The chance of a complete systems failure is near to zero.

Is it possible for a total instrument panel failure?  Yes, a total malfunction would not be impossible, but it would be highly and statistically very unlikely.

About the Author:

Michael Martin is the Vice President of Technology with Metercor Inc., a Smart Meter, IoT, and Smart City systems integrator based in Canada. He has more than 40 years of experience in systems design for applications that use broadband networks, optical fibre, wireless, and digital communications technologies. He is a business and technology consultant. He was a senior executive consultant for 15 years with IBM, where he worked in the GBS Global Center of Competency for Energy and Utilities and the GTS Global Center of Excellence for Energy and Utilities. He is a founding partner and President of MICAN Communications and before that was President of Comlink Systems Limited and Ensat Broadcast Services, Inc., both divisions of Cygnal Technologies Corporation (CYN: TSX). Martin served on the Board of Directors for TeraGo Inc (TGO: TSX) and on the Board of Directors for Avante Logixx Inc. (XX: TSX.V).  He has served as a Member, SCC ISO-IEC JTC 1/SC-41 – Internet of Things and related technologies, ISO – International Organization for Standardization, and as a member of the NIST SP 500-325 Fog Computing Conceptual Model, National Institute of Standards and Technology. He served on the Board of Governors of the University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) [now OntarioTech University] and on the Board of Advisers of five different Colleges in Ontario.  For 16 years he served on the Board of the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers (SMPTE), Toronto Section.  He holds three master’s degrees, in business (MBA), communication (MA), and education (MEd). As well, he has three undergraduate diplomas and five certifications in business, computer programming, internetworking, project management, media, photography, and communication technology. He has completed over 30 next generation MOOC continuous education in IoT, Cloud, AI and Cognitive systems, Blockchain, Agile, Big Data, Design Thinking, Security, Indigenous Canada awareness, and more.