Airbus Pilots’ Eyes Only: Better Searching of Airbus FOCT Manuals (Ver 2, July17)

“In Search of …  ”  Painting by Coplu (Coplu.Com)

Nerd Alert!

  • I compiled this blog in early 2008 for Airbus pilots and ground staff who need to access the Airbus FOCT manuals.   It is written for those who wish to learn more about how to make full use of the impressive (but undocumented) search features in the Airbus FOCT.
  • This blog has NO relevance for any other people. In fact this blog will make NO SENSE to people outside this piloting community.
  • Some of the information is technical and might not make sense to people with less than advanced computer skills.
  • The following is NOT official information.   This information is NOT provided in the FOCT.  This is my personal information that I offer in the hope that it may help you.

How to search Airbus FOCT manuals more efficiently

My father, Peter de Crespigny, 87, taking off in a Spitfire, September 2013.

My father, Peter de Crespigny, 88, taking off in a Spitfire, September 2013.

The Airbus Flight Operations Consultation Tool (FOCT) comprises the user interface (Java) and data files that present relevant Airbus and airline manuals to pilots and other interested parties.

My A380 FOCT  for the A380 comprises 2.4GB of data spanning 2,600 files.  The FOCT supports other Airbus aircraft types.

Airbus and airlines use the Airbus “ADoc” program to manage FOCT data.  Adoc database data is compiled into XML files and indices that are formatted to be displayed by the FOCT program.

I investigated the FOCT in detail in 2008 before the first A380 arrived at my airline.  I assisted my airline to optimise the our electronic manuals and made recommendations to Airbus to improve the FOCT.  The “DU Search” was one facility that I request in 2008 and that was subsequently released in the FOCT update in 2014.

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

The FOCT provides limited documentation on how to search itself for information.

I provide the following notes to help others search the FOCT more effectively.  I use these tools every time I reference FOCT data and also when I search the FOCT for data.

I have shared this guide with my airline and friends, who have commented how it has helped them to:

  1. make succinct references to FOCT data and to
  2. make faster and more narrowed FOCT searches.

I hope that this information helps you.

Understanding the FOCT Search Indexes

The FOCT uses the Lucene search engine.   Lucene is an open source, high-performance Java utility that provides search functions for compatible index files for almost unlimited data.

It is possible to view the structure of the FOCT indices.  The Luke (Lucene Index Toolbox) toolkit can open Lucene indices in the FOCT manuals, displaying the structure and showing interesting statistics.

For instance, the FOCT supports Lucene version 1 indices (Lucene is currently up to version 5).  Opening up the ECAM index reveals that there are currently 1,252 ECAM checklists in the A380 (up slightly from the 1,225 checklists that I described at page 157 of “QF32” that I produced in 2011).

Likewise, the TITLE index reveals that there are 7,813 pages in the A380 Flight Crew Operations Manual  (up from 6,334 in January 2010) and just 308 pages in the Flight Crew Training Manual.

This is irrelevant information except perhaps to consider the saving and benefits in using electronic rather than paper manuals. Given that an FCOM  “page” can span any length, we would need to use AT LEAST seven reams of paper to print just the FCOM and FCTM!

Every FOCT manual has a corresponding set of indices that are used to enable searches of that manual:

  • FCOM – contents, context, ecam, title
  • FCTM – contents, title
  • MEL – contents, ecam, func_code, title

FOCT Indices:

The FOCT includes many instances of the following indices:  (important indices bolded)

  • contents index – Contains a listing of the unique words (except for stop words) for the selected manual.  For example the FCOM contains 18,000 unique words.   The “contents” index is used by default.  Word Search window uses this index.   For example: “contents:fire” or “fire”
  • context  index – not populated.
  • ecam  index – ECAM checklists.  This index is used for internal FOCT purposes and is not user-friendly.  So there is little point searching this index.   For example, the Word Search of “ecam:al_29_10_060_01” retrieves the ECAM “HYD G(Y) RSVR LEVEL LO” checklist.
  • func_code   index – Index of MEL entries.  For example, to find the “78-30-04 Thrust Reverser Lock” ECAM search using either the Word Search using “func_code:78-30-04”, or the Functional Code search using  “78-30-04”
  • title  index – this is the page name / global display unit / GDU.   The discussion of his topic is now outside the scope of this document.  The title search was useful before Airbus updated the FOCT to provide the “DU Search” window.   For example, the DU Search of “4192” finds the same Autopilot page as the Word Search of the page “title: lg01087*”

Search using the following expression:   [indexname:]search_expression

  • indexname is one of the index names listed above (in lower case).  The colon marks the end of the index name  (ie   func_code:23-72-01)
  • search-expression is the alphanumeric search text

Understanding the FOCT Search Windows

The FOCT includes search windows for:

  1. Word Search   – defaults to “contents” index
  2. Interface Search – enable by setting “isInterfaceSearchActivated = true” in  ..\foct-conf\ct-access-search.config
  3. Index Search – Index not populated.  Not worth enabling.
  4. ECAM Search
  5. Functional Code Search –  defaults to ” “func_code” index
  6. DU Search – Search Display Units

The main search windows you will use often are:

  1. Word Search
  2. Functional Code Search
  3. DU Search

FOCT DU Search

The “DU” reference is a reference to an atomic level of ADOC data, varying in length from a letter up to a page.

The DU number is a short (8 character) reference to any text in an FOCT manual.

Separate DUs are created to accommodate separate, products, effectivity and organisation variances. Each DU has a specific purpose and whilst the text for a DU may change with time, the DU reference remains fixed to that data.

The DUs are an excellent unique reference to data in any FOCT page. DU identifiers are 8 characters long with a leading “0”.


  1. Deriving: Easy
  2. Documenting references: Short and easy
  3. Searching: Easy (using the DU search)
  4. Unique – the data is not duplicated.
  5. Persistent – Yes. The data always belongs to the DU


  1. Location Awareness: Nil

Viewing the DU Number

The DU number is a subset of the ID number that is displayed when you enable the FOCT’s main menu: INFO/DOC REF.

To identify a DU number for a given text:

  1. At the FOCTs main menu select INFO/DOC REF  (The ID numbers will then be displayed for all DUs.
  2. Look at the ID number, for example:
    “Id.: FCOM/PRO/NOR/SOP/60/B/00000768.0002001 / 24 Apr 09″The DU number is the 8 character expression (00000768) (with leading zeros) prior to the last 7 digits before the date.
  3. For example, look at the last 16 characters in the ID below:
    ID = “FCOM/PRO/NOR/SOP/60/B/00000768.0002001”
    xxxxxxxx.yyyyzzz  (00000768.0002001) where:
    xxxxxxxx – DU number (00000768 or 768)
    yyyy – aircraft configuration (effectivity) (0002) and
    zzz – revision (001)

The effectivity number is very useful tool to reduce data duplication.  An airline could create one SOPs manual that covers all fleets.  Common text for all fleets could be assigned an effectivity number “0001”.  This data is thus stored in one place and never duplicated.

  • DUs that refer to A380s might have an effectivity of “0380”.   Printing a manual with effectivities of “0001” and “0380” would result in an A380 SOPs manual.
  • DUs that refer to the B737 could have an effectivity of “0737”.  Thus, printing a manual with effectivities of “0001” and “0737” would result in a B737 SOPs manual.

Searching for a DU number

The FOCT’s Display Unit (DU) Search quickly locates pages that include a given  DU number.  To search for the DU number enter the DU reference into the DU search box.  For example:

  1. “768” – will find any DU that INCLUDES “768”, or more specifically
  2. “00000768” – finds only one DU reference for a given manual

Storing DU References in your Knowledge Base

I recommend that you reference FOCT data by the manual and DU number in the format:
[Manual Prefix] <DU Number>

I use a one character to represent any manual:






Company manual



Company manual



Airbus manual



Airbus manual



Company manual

Example references:

  1. “O 1”.   DU 00000001 (Hydraulics page in the fcOm.  Search for “00000001” or “1”
  2.  “T 12010”.    DU 00012010 (ILS page in the fcTm.  Search for “00012010” or “12010”

FOCT Functional Code Search

The Functional Code Search is similar to the Word Search, except that the Functional Code Search defaults to the “func_code” index.  For example, these two searches both locate the same MEL  (DDG) page for “24-21-01 Engine Electrical Generator”:

  • FUNCTIONAL CODE SEARCH – “24-21-01”    (defaults to func_code index)
  • WORD SEARCH  – “func_code:24-21-01”   (forced to search “func-code” index instead of default “contents” index)

FOCT Word Search

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

Peter de Crespigny (Spitfire pilot at 88 years)

Knowledge is everywhere.  The challenge for knowledge management systems is to  quickly identify then dive for just the pearls of wisdom rather than drown the in the ocean of big data.

The FOCT’s success as an electronic bookshelf depends upon the quality of the search engine and your ability to quickly find just the information that you need.   Unfortunately the FOCT provides little information about how to use the many search windows and no information about Lucene searches.

 The challenge …  dive for just the pearls of wisdom rather than drown the in the ocean of big data.

Enabled Search Features

Here are some search expressions that the FOCT’s search windows support.

Search Operators



ie: ICING AND Fuel

(Operator must be ALL CAPS)


ie: ICING OR Fuel (default: ie same as icing fuel)

(Operator must be ALL CAPS)




(Operator must be ALL CAPS)


Use double inverted commas to specify an exact search phrase ie: “Brake Pressure”




Multiple character wildcard

Single character wildcard

Wildcards are NOT permitted at the start of the word (to optimise speed)

To search for “tyre, tire, tires, tyres”:

OK: “t*”, “t?re*”, “t?re?”

NOT OK: “*yre”, “t?re”?

“T?re” is a great example. The 2015 A380 FOCT still uses instances of “tire” and “tyre” to describe the same thing.

Fuzzy Searches


Syntax: <word>~[distance]

Distance: <0.x> – based on the Levenstheim distance (0 (distant) to 1 (close)).

Example 1

“obstruct” – 1 found

“obstruct~” – 82 found (finds many more (includes “construct” in the search)

“obstruct~0.1” – 8921 found

“obstruct~0.7” – 28 found

“obstruct~0.9” – 1 found

Proximity Operators


This operator is very powerful though probably seldom used. It finds the words separated by no more than x words.

“APPLY FIRST” (0 results)

“APPLY FIRST”~1 (1 results)

“APPLY FIRST”~2 (2 results) (finds first apply ..

“APPLY FIRST”~6 (3 results)

Find the words in either order

“APPLY FIRST”~2 (2 results)

Will search for “apply first” and “first apply”

Find the words only if separated

“ECAM ACTION”~6 – “ECAM ACTION”~2 (1 results)

Range Search

Syntax: <field>:[( | [] <range1> TO <range2> [] | )]

<field>: – optional (suggest leave blank)

“” (inverted commas) – exclusive

() (curly brackets) – inclusive

Example 1

“Oxy to Oxygen”

Search for all titles between Oxy and Oxygen, excluding the terms

Example 2

(Oxy to Oxygen)

Search for all titles between Oxy and Oxygen , including the terms

Stop Words

Stop Words are not indexed or searchable.

Stop words are listed at ..\foct-conf\ct-viewer.config

Search expressions are parsed and the following words are remove before the search is conducted:





+ <plus>

Must Include

Similar to “AND”

Caution. When using, every word must have a prefix, otherwise unreliable results are returned.

– <minus>

Must Not Include

Similar to “AND NOT”

<blank> or <comma>

Should Include

Similar to “OR”

 Complex Search Examples

The following searches use various combinations of two words (icing and fuel) to show the options and their corresponding search results.

Keep Calm and Aviate! (Painting by Coplu

Keep Calm and Aviate!
(Painting by Coplu

Note:  These search results were compiled in 2010 using the FOCT at that time.  Your search results may vary.


Search Results (pages)
















Icing and Fuel

contents:(+icing +fuel)

+Icing +Fuel

Icing +Fuel





AND example

Must Have Icing. Must Have fuel

Must Have Icing. Must Have fuel

Danger. When using a + prefix, every word must have a prefix, otherwise incorrect results are returned

Icing or Fuel

contents:(icing fuel)

Icing Fuel

Icing , Fuel





OR example

When no operator is specified, the default operator “OR” is applied

Icing and not Fuel

Icing -Fuel



NOT example

Must Have Icing. Must Not Have fuel

Icing and not Fuel and not ECAM


Overly complex and verbose NOT example. Not recommended!

Icing -Fuel -ECAM


Simple exclusion example. Must Have Icing. Must Not Have fuel. Must Not Have ECAM.

+Icing -Fuel -ECAM


(equivalent to above)

Fuel and not Icing


NOT example

Fuel -Icing


Must Have Fuel. Must Not Have Icing.

+Fuel -Icing


(equivalent to above)

Icing and not Fuel or ECAM

Icing not Fuel

Icing – Fuel




Danger. Too complex a boolean search not supported by the FOCT. Incorrect (unexpected) result

Icing + Fuel

Fuel + Icing



Danger. When using a + prefix, every word must have a prefix, otherwise incorrect results are returned

Flaring Iraqi gas fields (Photo Richard de Crespigny)

Flaring Iraqi gas fields (Photo Richard de Crespigny)


  1. All searches are case insensitive
  2. The search operation only searches for valid search words (not including Stop Words)
  3. You cannot search for a combined phrase with a trailing wildcard such as “t?re”?
  4. FOCT boolean (AND OR NOT) queries do not obey a strict boolean logic. “A AND B” or “A AND NOT B” will work as expected, but “A AND B OR C” will give unexpected results. It’s best when thinking of the logic to think in terms of the logic simply being applied one step at a time from the left to the right. It’s also easiest to think in terms of MUST and MUST_NOT (“+”, “-” ) instead of in terms of AND, OR, and NOT.
  5. Caution. When using a + prefix, every word must have a prefix, otherwise unexpected results are returned.
  6.  The FOCT also includes other utilities that could provide additional functionality (i.e. ACE viewers).
  7.  I am happy to share more deeper technical information about searching the many FOCT indexes if requested.

Suggested FOCT Modifications

Increase Search Results Window size

Open the file ..\foct-conf\ct-access-search.config

Increase the number at the end of the line “#maximum number of DU displayable in result window” from 50 to (say) 500


  1. cap11ahcou8 · · Reply

    Thank you, Captain.
    While our system is different, this has given me some insights into the search logic.
    Our first version of the FOCT has been a deplorable mess for searching critical items. One can only imagine frantically doing so after, say, the Number 2 engine explodes! Fortunately, as we work through our merger, the pubs are being collated and redesigned, and the latest permutation is a VAST improvement over the “1.0.”
    Eric “Cap’n Aux” Auxier

    1. Thanks Captain Eric,

      So we can scratch the A320 off the Lucene index list.

      For pilots of the A330, A340 and A350, your FOCT might also use the Lucene search engine and so this document might still be appropriate for that. A simple check to detect Lucene is to look for the file named “” in the “foct-conf” folder.

      I’d be grateful to get responses from other Airbus pilots advising whether this files exists or not on their platform.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: