Oct. 20, 2022

The benefits of flight data monitoring (FDM) systems were examined in depth during the NTSB Roundtable at the 2022 NBAA Business Aviation Convention and Exhibition (NBAA-BACE).

Citing Boeing’s definition of FDM as “objective analysis of aircraft operational systems that provide actionable data for continuous improvement,” panel moderator NTSB Vice Chair Bruce Landsberg noted that such systems may range from downloadable engine-management information to advanced flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) equipment that passively downloads operating parameters for dissemination by pilots and flight departments.

Even simpler systems, such as the one Landsberg uses in his personal Beech Bonanza, help pilots “monitor the baseline,” he said, “so you can start to see when things are starting to get out of hand. We get a report card back that says, okay, everything is good – or you’ve got some caution areas that you need to think about.”

The NTSB strongly recommends FDM, flight data recorders and FOQA in business aviation, driven in part by fatal accidents in Bedford, MA; Akron, OH; and Teterboro, NJ. In each of those mishaps, Landsberg noted, FDM could have potentially identified risky practices and behaviors before they caused loss of life.

Morgan Bonde, an international Gulfstream G650 captain and safety manager at Adobe, said his operation utilizes FDM as an extension of its safety management system (SMS). “As we put those things through our SMS, we’re really able to define if we need to change our policies, update our training or adapt or develop standard operating procedures,” he said.

Fractional ownership provider Jet It is deploying FDM throughout its fleet of 24 HondaJets. Company Safety Director Jason Greenleaf emphasized that installing a monitoring system in just one aircraft can yield benefits.

“The multi-thousand-dollar-per-tail analytics solution may not be where you need to start,” said Greenleaf. “Begin at the shallow end of the pool, collecting just a few parameters. You’ll start to learn a lot more about your operation, probably much more than you had imagined.”

A phased roll-out of FDM can also help resolve concerns among pilots about privacy or being penalized for off-nominal behaviors.

“This is a journey,” said Doug Carr, NBAA’s senior vice president of safety, security, sustainability and international operations. “People need to get comfortable culturally with somebody looking at their performance, holding each other accountable and then use that as an opportunity to improve.

Carr added, “As we continue this journey, we’re going to see higher numbers of operators get comfortable with the program, find value in sharing [this information] and then start reaping benefits from what that sharing is going to lead to.”

Other participants in the NBAA-BACE roundtable included FAA Acting Safety Program Manager Tom Luipersbeck; Tidal Aviation President Reid Nelson; Jens Hennig, vice president of operations for the General Aviation Manufacturers Association and Air Charter Safety Foundation Safety Director Frank Raymond.

Learn more about NBAA-BACE.

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