Operational Flight Data Monitoring, known more recently as Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA), is probably the most important safety tool available to aviation.
Rather than reacting to serious incidents, operators have a very useful tool to proactively identify safety hazards and mitigate the risks.
What Happens to Identified Events?
Whilst each individual event typically needs to be investigated so that the appropriate management decisions may be made by the airline, there is an opportunity for a deeper and longer lasting outcome.
Event data may be managed to facilitate the wider and longer-term trend analysis so that events & issues can be identified and corrective action is taken.
Considering Normal OPS!
Analysts can also analyse the collected data from normal operations to enable the opportunity to identify trends before there is a significant event or incident.
(Both approaches to analysis can actually work together to give the safety officer a greater insight into what is happening within the organisation.
Initial Verification of Flight Data is the First Step
The first step in the investigation process is to ensure the information is realistic and presents a consistent picture.
VALIDATION IS CRITICAL. Before any action is instigated the basic FDR information must be thoroughly checked. Well written FDM software should automate as much of this process as practical.
Identification of Urgent Actions
A small number of circumstances may be derived from FDM data which indicate that immediate safety action is required and a fast procedure to ensure safety critical remedial action should be defined. An example could be a heavy landing with potential damage that has not been reported by other means.
This should trigger actions to generate a maintenance requirement for relevant Aircraft Maintenance Manual (AMM) structural checks as soon as possible.
Once any action is taken a record should be generated to ensure an active monitor is enabled.
This should be identified against the original problem and a careful assessment made of other potential hazards in the area of change.
Note – Part of the assessment of the fuller effects of changes should be an attempt to identify potential relocation of risks.
This follow up activity, together with a general monitor on all surrounding measures is required before “signing off” the change as successful. This confirmation, or otherwise, would be expected to feed into a high-level management group to ensure remedial action takes place.
Sofema Aviation Services www.sassofia.com offers classroom training in Flight Data Monitoring techniques/ SofemaOnline www.sofemaonline.com offers an intensive online course covering all the fundamentals of an effective Flight Data Monitoring System. For details please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com