EBACE Convention News

Data for Safety Offers Collaborative FDM for Bizav in Europe

 - May 26, 2021, 9:00 AM

Since flight data monitoring (FDM) programs are currently mandated in Europe only for aircraft with an mtow above 27,000 kg (59,525 pounds) and operated commercially, there is a limited number of business aircraft operators that are required to have FDM. However, due to the importance of safety in the business aviation sector, several operators already have an FDM program in place. In more recent times, with safety management systems (SMS) becoming more mature, additional sources of safety data have grown, and with this richness, the potential to generate useful insights from the data has also grown.

Much like in commercial aviation, collaboration is critical to safety in business aviation, and government and industry are working together in this field. “An example of this collaboration is the FAA's Commercial Aviation Safety Team (CAST), which comprises representatives from airlines, manufacturers, labor, and government that analyze data from accidents and safety incidents to improve commercial aviation safety," said Gunter Ertel, senior program manager of system safety at Boeing.

Currently, however, there is no organized data sharing specifically for business aviation, both globally and regionally in Europe. “We see that there are some initiatives where individual operators share a limited amount of data between themselves, but this remains on a ‘best practice sharing base’ only," said a spokesperson for the European Business Aviation Association (EBAA). “In Europe, the recently launched Data for Safety (D4S) is coming to the end of the proof-of-concept phase in 2021 and is planned to start including new operators in 2022.”

D4S is a data collection and analysis program with the goal to ensure the highest common level of safety and environmental protection for the European aviation system. “The program aims to collect and gather all data that may support the management of safety risks at the European level. This includes safety reports (or occurrences), flight data (i.e., data generated by the aircraft via the flight data recorders), surveillance data (air traffic data), weather data—but those are only a few from a much longer list. However, this does not specifically target business aviation," said EBAA.

“When and how smaller business aviation operators will be able to join D4S is still under evaluation, however, we support EASA in the effort to bring forth a system that further increases safety and operations in the European aviation sector,” it added.

Sources for safety data sharing range from airplane-recorded flight parameters to ADS-B Out, weather data, and ground-based radar surveillance to many different forms of voluntary reporting information all within the confines of appropriate governance and data protection, according to Ertel. “Different data sources and information provide different benefits. Generally speaking, airplane recorded data is often used in the context of safety performance indicators (SPI)," he said.

“An SPI could be thought of as a precursor element to an undesired outcome (i.e., an airplane accident or incident). Reporting information can give specific insight into certain types of incidents and often adds a human element to the story.” Sharing safety data can be difficult since the bulk of the relevant data is often proprietary to a particular stakeholder, be it an air operator, original equipment manufacturer, or maintenance provider. “A fundamental trust between the industry and government to adhere to the voluntary, non-punitive, ‘just culture’ concept makes data sharing possible,” Ertel said. “The main role of the regulator in this context is, in part, to facilitate the collaboration by bringing stakeholders together.”

Indeed, government and industry working together with the same goal of improving aviation safety have provided a fertile ground for the initiatives and data sharing programs that exist today. “Critical mass is absolutely necessary to make valid assumptions about the data analyzed. There is more work to do and there are several regional efforts to establish safety data-sharing programs, such as D4S in Europe and APshare in the Asia Pacific," Ertel said.

As a way to sustain the path towards safety data sharing, EBAA invites operators to join FDM programs and to make FDM a part of normal daily operations, even though FDM is not mandated for a significant part of the business aviation fleet. “Safety is, and always will be, priority number one in business aviation. Safety efforts should include the installation of quick access recording equipment on board the aircraft on top of the normal ‘black’ box commonly known to most people. This additional recording equipment is needed to participate in an FDM program as the data they produce are more widely accessible," concluded EBAA.