WHAT IS FLIGHT DATA MONITORING (FDM)?
There are many definitions for Flight Data Monitoring (FDM). To some, it means capturing aircraft data while inflight for later analysis to investigate anomalies and events to augment a safety management program (SMS). For others it is a means to identify trends in operational procedures that can be improved for greater efficiencies. Still, others define flight data monitoring (FDM) as a means to create a proactive Maintenance Operations Quality Assurance (MOQA) program, finding problems before they happen. At its core, Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is the capture and analysis of aircraft data to produce reports that allow managers of safety, flight, and maintenance operations to identify trends, investigate anomalies and improve overall performance in each area. Simply put, Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is the proactive use of recorded flight data from routine operations to improve aviation safety, flight and maintenance operations.
FLIGHT DATA MONITORING (FDM), IT ISN’T JUST ABOUT SAFETY ANYMORE
At its inception, FDM was mainly a means to capture and analyze events that would lead to safer flight operations allowing safety managers the ability to identify trends and fully investigate the circumstances behind events flagged. Using the same parameters monitored under the safety programs and improvements to the data capture technology, the use of FDM data has evolved into a practice that benefits managers in the flight operations and maintenance areas of a fleet operator as well. Today, the tools used in a comprehensive FDM program affect the operational efficiencies across the entire spectrum of business intelligence used to run a successful aviation organization.
In addition to operational efficiencies, the FDM data can be used for more detailed training programs.
A TYPICAL AIRCRAFT INSTALLATION OF A FLIGHT DATA MONITORING (FDM) SYSTEM
The typical aircraft installation consists of a Flight Data Recording (FDR) device that is connected to the aircraft’s avionics subsystems, GPS and satellite antennas, and an optional Wi-Fi or 3G/4G modem. These recorders record all flight parameters to an internal fault tolerant storage at a typical sample rate of 1Hz. These devices are able to detect and transmit a subset of critical FDM exceedance events in real time. Some manufacturers offer multiple ways to download data on a global basis. Airborne connectivity is through the satellite network and when the aircraft is on the ground, the data is transmitted via Wi-Fi or 3G/4G connectivity for bulk transfer of FDM data to FDM servers.
WHY DO YOU NEED FLIGHT DATA MONITORING (FDM)?
A key part of an FDM program is to define a safety, flight operations and maintenance operations quality assurance (Safety Management System (SMS), Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) and Maintenance Operations Quality Assurance (MOQA)) event set. The goal is to define an event list that will provide meaningful and consistent FDM data across the customer’s fleet of aircraft and meet their specific operational requirements. This may include a considerable variety of airframes, some of which can provide much more FDM data than others. The optimal approach in this case is to define a core event set that can reasonably be implemented on all aircraft and event supersets as appropriate for aircraft with better instrumentation.
Experience tells us that when implementing an FDM program for the first time, a fleet operator may be overwhelmed by the complexity of a large event set and interpreting huge amounts of FDM data. To facilitate sorting through this data and putting it into a useful set of reports, fleet operators often use flight analysis tools that sort through and report the data, putting it into a format that is pertinent to the appropriate business unit, i.e. SMS, FOQA/MOQA. Even with powerful flight analysis tools, it takes time to refine and tune the event set to meet the needs of flight operations. It is highly recommended to implement the core event set first and supplementing that once the FDM program is up and running.
WHAT ARE EVENT SETS?
Event definitions dictate the parameters that must be acquired from the aircraft. In general, we strive to record raw data and convert it at a later date to support audits from the FAA, EASA, Transport Canada and others. FDM system installations use the aircraft’s existing digital avionics as a source of parameter data: FDAU, FDR, FMS, GPS, etc. They use digital instrumentation whenever possible to avoid ambiguity or inconsistency between the data the aircraft operator sees and what data is recorded. This also minimizes maintenance costs by relying on the aircraft’s avionics calibrations for accurate data.
Since many aircraft of the same type are equipped with different avionics equipment, parameter sets may vary even on the same airframe e.g. parameters available from the FDR often depend on the equipment vendor or revision. A thorough review of aircraft equipment lists will confirm the parameters that can be obtained for each aircraft. In the case of older or less sophisticated aircraft, implementing the core event set may require additional sensors to be installed, such as fuel flow sensors, air data computer, flap sensors etc.
FDM BOTTOM LINE
The core objective of the FDM program is to facilitate the free flow of flight data information across all fleet operators’ business units, SMS/FOQA/MOQA. Additional benefits include reduction of costs by increasing operational efficiency and reducing aircraft downtime and maintenance.
The G7 is the foundation of Guardian Mobility’s Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) solution. Click here to learn more.