Flight Data Monitoring

John FRANKLIN • 16 January 2022
in community Air Operations

Are you making the most of Flight Data Monitoring within your organisation’s management system? Learn more about the Learn more about the great materials and supporting information developed by EASA and our collaborative partners.

Update on 16 January 2022: A new document has been published on FDM analysis techniques and principles provides industry good practice regarding common analysis techniques used by FDM specialists. It also offers some principles to be aware of for successful implementation of these analysis techniques.

What is a flight data monitoring programme?

A Flight data monitoring (FDM) programme could be defined as ‘the routine collection and analysis of flight data to develop objective and predictive information for advancing safety’.

In practice, it means:

  1. Continuously recording flight parameters throughout the flight,
  2. Routinely collecting this data from aircraft, and
  3. Processing the recordings with the help of specific software to extract safety-relevant information, such as deviations from the operating procedures or abnormal parameter values.
FDM process

Why should I have a flight data monitoring programme?

It is strongly recommended that if you are a commercial air transport operator, you invest in an FDM programme and/or make your FDM programme stronger! It can provide some amazing insights to help mitigate key safety risks.

A well implemented FDM programme will allow you to:

  • detect trends in operation that are adversely affecting safety, even before they result in a serious incident,
  • reliably capture safety-relevant events during operation, even if they were not reported by the flight crew,
  • build and maintain a complete and accurate picture of your safety risks, which is essential for an effective safety management system (SMS),
  • verify the effectiveness of corrective actions (corrective training, change to operating procedures, equipment retrofit, etc),
  • and many more safety-related use cases!

In addition, flight parameters that are collected for an FDM programme may be used for other purposes than safety, such as maintenance, fuel efficiency, etc.

OK, but with the current situation is it difficult to invest in flight data monitoring?

Although the COVID-19 pandemic has created many financial and operational challenges for many operators, the pandemic has created many new risks that FDM is ideally placed to help you with.  Your flight crew and other staff members will also have been impacted and FDM will help you to understand the new risk landscape by helping your staff to identify new safety hazards.

In troubled times, a well-implemented FDM programme can be more useful than ever, as it will keep providing current and accurate information to manage your safety.

With the decrease of in the volume of activity, now might be the ideal time to set up or enhance your FDM programme.

What do I need to implement a flight data monitoring programme?

Obviously, FDM requires airborne equipment. For most modern aeroplanes with a maximum take-off mass of over 5 700 kg, such airborne equipment can easily be installed or is already installed.

Also, there are several FDM software solutions on the market.

Equally, if not more important conditions for an effective FDM programme are:

  • A well-established Just Culture,
  • A functioning SMS, and
  • Personnel with sufficient qualification and specific FDM training.

Where could I find help to set up or strengthen my flight data monitoring programme?

If you are a newcomer in the FDM field, it is advisable to attend specific training.

For those with good knowledge of FDM, EASA is running, in partnership with the industry, the European Operators FDM forum (EOFDM). Forum members:

  • Collaboratively produce industry good practice for FDM programmes, for the benefit of all operators, and
  • Exchange experience and FDM techniques with their peers.

To this date, EOFDM has published good practice documents that cover:

  • recommendations and methods for monitoring precursors of the most common categories of occurrence with FDM,
  • key performance indicators for an FDM programme,
  • establishing a memorandum of understanding for an FDM programme, and
  • fully integrating FDM with the SMS.

If you are an FDM specialist or a safety manager, EOFDM may well be something for you!

Note: EOFDM is open to non-European organisations.

All public information on EOFDM can be consulted on EOFDM webpage.

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