Advisory Circulars

Commercial & Business Aviation

COMMERCIAL AND BUSINESS
AVIATION ADVISORY CIRCULAR


No. 0193

2001.11.01

Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) Programs

INTRODUCTION

A number of Canada's national and regional air operators are becoming increasingly interested in implementing Flight Data Monitoring (FDM), a program that many see as the single most important safety initiative to occur within the aviation sector in many years. While companies engaged in FDM acknowledge the benefits of the program, those considering FDM have concerns over the integrity and accessibility of the collected data.

PURPOSE

This Commercial and Business Aviation Advisory Circular (CBAAC) outlines implemented through changes to the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations (CARs).

BACKGROUND

FDM is a program whereby digital flight data generated during line operations is collected and analyzed to provide greater insight into the total flight operations environment. FDM data is used to reveal the causes of identified problems and provides a means of determining the effectiveness of corrective measures taken. The information and insights provided by FDM can also be used to reduce operational costs and significantly enhance training effectiveness, operational procedures, maintenance and engineering procedures, and air traffic control systems and procedures. FDM is similar to Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) in the USA, and to programs at European and Asian airlines that have been ongoing for more than 30 years.

In competition for scarce resources within an airline, FDM programs need to go through the same cost-justification process as any other program. While there are clear and compelling benefits for an FDM program to identify and reduce operational risks, they are often difficult to quantify. Airlines with FDM have indicated that as they become more familiar with the program, they have discovered uses of the data that have resulted in extended engine life, more efficient routings, and in saving money in other areas. These improvements, coupled with safety enhancements, have been determined to more than justify the cost of implementing an FDM program.

POLICY DEVELOPMENT

Transport Canada recognizes the significant benefits that can be derived from FDM and is committed to working with operators to ensure that FDM programs are implemented. To this end, Transport Canada will abide by the following principles:

  1. For the time being, Transport Canada will accept to review only de-identified data derived from voluntary FDM Programs.
     
  2. Transport Canada will not use information derived from a voluntary FDM Program for enforcement purposes.
     
  3. Air operators will not be required to provide FDM data to Transport Canada for analysis.
     
  4. Transport Canada recognizes that trends revealed from aggregate, de-identified data are of far greater usefulness than data from any single flight. De-identification of FDM data is therefore viewed as an integral part of FDM where the focus on the program is identification of systemic deficiencies, both internal and external, that may affect flight safety.

FUTURE DISPOSITION

The Aeronautics Act is currently being amended and the proposed amendments include general protections of data derived from voluntary programs (such as FDM). These proposed protections should be similar to the Canadian Transportation Accident Investigation and Safety Board Act provisions that pertain to the use of cockpit voice recorders and flight data recorders.

CONCLUSION

With the Aeronautics Act amended it will be possible to more clearly identify these "voluntary programs" and provide more specific detail on the policies that apply to them. This will be done by amending the CARs, a task that will be undertaken by a Canadian Aviation Regulation Advisory Council (CARAC) Working Group composed of members from the aviation industry as well as government.

It is expected that these changes to the Aeronautics Act and the Canadian Aviation Regulations will be promulgated in 2002.

M.R. Preuss
Director
Commercial & Business Aviation

Commercial & Business Aviation Advisory Circulars (CBAAC) are intended to provide information and guidance regarding operational matters. A CBAAC may describe an acceptable, but not the only, means of demonstrating compliance with existing regulations. CBAACs in and of themselves do not change, create any additional, authorize changes in, or permit deviations from regulatory requirements.

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