There are many benefits to flight data monitoring, so why aren’t more Business Aviation flight departments adopting it? Mario Pierobon asks some industry experts…
Flight data monitoring (FDM) provides significant advantages and benefits to Business Aviation. Although the regulations currently only make it mandatory in the case of operations with airplanes with an MTOW above 59,500lbs, a corporate flight department invested in good safety practices should look to implement FDM on its smaller aircraft.
According to aviation consultant Captain Marcel Martineau, FDM offers several advantages and benefits to a flight operation when properly utilized.
“With sophisticated tools and qualified operators, numerous benefits can be derived from FDM,” he elaborates. “Information such as statistics on the operation, risk management, fuel efficiency and adherence to standard operating procedures are just a few of the numerous benefits of good analysis. Operators that have an extensive fleet will especially benefit from proper FDM analysis.”
Stephen Alcock, Honeywell Aerospace’s senior director of Business and General Aviation aftermarket in Europe, points out that FDM helps maintenance technicians and quality assurance personnel improve operational efficiency and enhance safety when managing their fleet.
“Honeywell’s GoDirect Flight Planning uses FDM to provide operators in the Business Aviation space with faster and better options when planning flights worldwide,” he offers. “The technology analyses flight data and simplifies flight planning workflows, reducing the time needed to plan a flight and therefore boosting efficiency.
“FDM also improves safety in Business Aviation. The GoDirect Connected Maintenance service analyses aircraft data to enable auxiliary power units and other connected components to undergo inspections and repairs at the right time.
“The analytics solution works by providing alerts of impending failures and prescribing maintenance actions, drastically improving safety, reducing aircraft downtime and lowering costs,” adds Alcock.
Why Isn’t FDM More Widely Used in BizAv?
FDM is not as widely used in Business Aviation as it is in the commercial airline sector. This is mostly down to the fact that FDM is not obligatory for aircraft with a take-off weight of less than 59,500lbs, according to Alcock. “Forward-thinking Business Aviation fleets are choosing to deploy FDM services like GoDirect because they understand the efficiency, cost-saving and safety benefits of implementing it”, he says.
Martineau points out that a limitation to an extensive use of FDM in Business Aviation lies in the fact that since it was initially an accident investigative tool, it is normally quite technical.
“While it is true that with advanced aircraft a very large amount of data and information has become available, on the other hand analysing that data requires advanced tools and some highly qualified operators."
“During an accident or incident investigation, one is dealing with a specific case where time and cost is not normally an issue. But analysing with an enormous amount of data from thousands of flights clearly becomes a more complex exercise,” he explains.
The use of IT solutions for FDM is particularly important, and the effective assessment of information obtained from digital flight data should be dependent on the provision of appropriate information technology tool sets.
“It can be difficult to find capable IT-qualified personnel that are both good programmers and have excellent operational experience, [so they] know how to produce significant information meaningful to users”, says Martineau.
How to Ensure Successful FDM Implementation
A key aspect to ensure a successful FDM implementation experience is through appropriate training. FDM-related regulations require the selection and training of dedicated and experienced staff to operate the program.
All FDM team members need appropriate training or experience for their respective area of data analysis. Each team member should be allocated a realistic amount of time to regularly spend on FDM tasks.
According to the role played in relation to FDM, different types of training should be delivered.
Actual flight data analysts training should have a focus on the use of software to perform data analysis. Line operatives should be briefed on the program and the principles of confidentiality and non-jeopardy that apply in an FDM program. The ‘gate keepers’ should be trained in the soft skills needed in managing the interface between the pilots and the company when particular events are detected that need follow-up with the crew.
Essentially, the benefits of FDM are many to the safety-focussed Business Aviation flight department – but time and training must be allocated to ensuring the full benefits are realized.