April 15, 2014

A year-long study by the FAA will serve as a test bed for extending the benefits of safety trends analysis, through the use of flight data management (FDM) tools already employed by many Part 121 and Part 135 operators, to general aviation (GA) pilots across the country.

Based on recommendations from the General Aviation Joint Steering Committee, which is comprised of industry representatives and FAA officials, the GA Data Demonstration Project offers pilots operating within 40 nautical miles of Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport the chance to submit flight data to the agency’s Aviation Safety Information Analysis and Sharing (ASIAS) program.

The newly formed General Aviation Issues Analysis Team – comprising representatives from the FAA, federally funded research and development firm MITRE, and the industry – will disseminate the aggregated data and make recommendations for improving operator safety.

Team member Steve Charbonneau, vice chairman of the NBAA Safety Committee, called the project “a critical first step” toward greater collaboration between GA operators and the FAA to reduce accident rates.

“ASIAS has been an enormously successful program for the commercial aviation industry,” Charbonneau explained. “It was the foundation of the Commercial Aviation Safety Team that set a goal to reduce commercial aviation accidents by 80 percent by 2007 – a goal they achieved – through a partnership between regulators and operators to advance safety concepts.”

Participants will submit data to a national database maintained by the University of North Dakota, with the option to hide the operator’s proprietary or identifying information.

FDM tools are already available through many glass-panel avionics systems, and even some mobile apps, as well as from flight operations quality assurance programs and operator-led aviation safety action programs. The team also will review pilot reports and publicly available information such as weather reports and air traffic control transcripts.

“Many airlines now capture flight data recorder information and upload that to an internal database, which enables them to identify trends within their own organizations,” said Mark Larsen, NBAA senior manager, safety and flight operations. “Most GA pilots don’t fly as often as air carriers, of course, which make it important to cast a wider net.”

Larsen added that the Phoenix-area’s combination of a large pilot population, a high number of GA airports underlying Class B airspace, several FAR Part 141 training providers and often-favorable weather conditions should provide the FAA with a high number of respondents.

Participation in the study also grants the pilot access to the FAA’s online safety database and the opportunity to attend the twice-yearly Aviation Safety InfoShare meeting led by the FAA’s Office of Accident Investigation and Prevention.

Review information about the GA Data Demonstration Project.