Increasing recognition of the safety benefits from flight data sharing programs is helping to drive growth and acceptance of these technologies throughout the owner-flown, turbine-powered aircraft community.
The TBM Owner Pilot Association (TBMOPA) first recognized the potential advantages of data sharing in late 2017, with member Dierk Reuter working with TBM instructor Bill Panarello to track landing mishaps involving the single-engine turboprop aircraft.
“After a number of logs were examined, Bill had a eureka moment: ‘Dierk, we can predict from past data which pilots are likely to have a landing incident!’” Reuter recalled. “This led to the creation of an online [form] where owners upload their log files and automatically receive an analysis of their performance.”
“It's a very powerful motivator.”
Charlie Precourt Former Astronaut and Citation Jet Pilots Association Safety Committee Chair
Daher later adopted this process into its “Me & My TBM” owner app. Owners of TBMs equipped with Garmin avionics may also manually upload data after each flight, with automatic uploads enabled by Pratt & Whitney Canada’s Flight Data Acquisition Storage and Transmission (FAST) System installed on newer TBM aircraft.
“It took a little while to warm up to uploading my data and recognizing what I should be looking for,” said TBMOPA Chair Andrew Cragg, “but it has now become a routine part of every flight I take. Analyzing that data post-flight has become every bit as important to me as performing a thorough pre-flight inspection.”
Former astronaut Charlie Precourt brought his NASA experiences with data sharing and flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) programs to the Citation Jet Pilots (CJP) Association, where he serves as chair of the group’s safety committee.
In 2020, a group of 10 volunteers equipped their Citations with data-gathering equipment. Participating pilots received an email showing their flight performance data within minutes of landing, enabled by CJP partner CloudAhoy.
Results and feedback from that initiative led CJP to launch a dedicated member FOQA program in early 2023. Data sharing is also a key part of CJP’s recently unveiled “Safe to Land” initiative to help pilots maintain a stabilized approach to the runway and recognize opportunities to correct deviations, or go around.
Precourt shared his experience with the program from a recent flight. “I wasn’t even out of my aircraft yet, and there was the email waiting showing that I scored 100% on a true IFR approach in icing,” he said. “It’s a very powerful motivator.”
As with the TPMOPA initiative, de-identified operator data is also gathered and aggregated to help CJP identify potentially hazardous trends among participating members, which can then be addressed and mitigated. Availability of lower-priced data gathering solutions further encourages pilots to participate in these efforts.
Reduced insurance costs for participating owner-operators is one of many potential safety benefits associations hope to realize from data sharing, with such programs often revealing patterns that could lead to unintended consequences.
“One operator [utilizing FOQA] found their pilots consistently floated down the runway on landing,” said David Miller, CJP’s director of programs and safety education. “Turns out they had an unwritten contest to see how many of their passengers would applaud a soft landing.
“When asked about it, the pilots acknowledged it could be an unsafe practice, and they changed their behavior,” he added.