FSF will begin corporate FOQA demo next month

 - November 1, 2006, 6:54 AM

The Flight Safety Foundation (FSF) has moved ahead on a program to demonstrate a corporate aviation application for flight-operations quality assurance (FOQA). Having led the initiative to prove the benefits of FOQA to commercial carriers, and working now with NBAA, the FSF will institute a similar project at the top end of the general aviation spectrum starting at the beginning of next month.

Last year International Business Aviation Council standards manager Ray Rohr said, “FOQA will be a powerful tool for mitigating hazards and their associated risks.”

When the corporate FOQA (C-FOQA) demonstration project gets under way next month, the FSF expects that up to eight aircraft (including Gulfstream IVs and Vs and Dassault Falcon 900s) flown by five operators will be involved.

Typically, FOQA involves the routine analysis of flight information generated during line operations to reveal safety situations and practices that might require corrective action. It helps prevent accidents by identifying root causes of potential problems, using quick-access flight-data recorders (QARs) and appropriate software for routine collection and analysis of information. The results can improve line operational safety; training effectiveness; airport surface safety; and operational, maintenance, engineering and ATC procedures.

“The main difference between the corporate (or business) operator and the airlines is that corporate fleets are small–usually one to three aircraft–so it is difficult to get a large sample of data,” said FSF executive vice president Bob Vandel. “This information can then be compared with the entire fleet, the operator’s manual, or with his own standard operating procedures to determine how his fleet is being operated,” he told the FSF European aviation safety seminar in Warsaw, Poland, in March.

Under the FSF’s planned demonstration program, participating corporate operators would send information to a single data processor, explained FSF technical programs director Jim Burin. In return, they would then receive a quarterly report. Burin said that unlike airline FOQA, the corporate aviation application would have no analysis of how selected parameters were being exceeded in service (“exceedences”); rather, the comparison would be with the way other operators of the same types were flying their aircraft.

One consideration has been the fact that most corporate aircraft are not equipped with FDRs, and even fewer are equipped with the latest small, lightweight QARs. Initially, FSF considered whether it made sense for corporate operators to share the cost of data analysis by a “trusted third-party collector/evaluator.”

Enforcement Actions

The FAA boosted longstanding efforts to make FOQA more acceptable in 2001 when it adopted rules that prevented the agency from using information obtained through voluntary FAA-approved FOQA programs to bring enforcement action against participating commercial operators, except in criminal or deliberate cases. Public disclosure of FOQA information is specifically banned under FAR Part 193.

Participation in FOQA is voluntary. The FAA approves the airline’s program for routine collection and analysis of digital flight data. Under FAA-approved programs, when problems are identified operators set procedures for taking corrective action and for informing the regulatory agency. Such data permits operators and regulators to establish accident precursors and to intervene to break the sequence of events that can result in accidents.

The FAA has said that business aviation is among the beneficiaries of important safety advances that arose from commercial FOQA. The new C-FOQA program is being coordinated by aviation consultant Ted Mendenhall, a former director of flight operations and later chief of safety at Gulfstream Aerospace. Last year, Mendenhall received the FSF business aviation meritorious service award for his “relentless pursuit of advanced aviation safety systems.”

Initially, the C-FOQA program will provide a plot of selected operations parameters, and the FSF has been working to select the parametrical criteria to define a stabilized approach. The existing FSF approach and landing accident reduction project has a stabilized-approach definition that for risk-assessment analysis involves speed, position above/ below the glideslope, rate of descent and distance to run, aircraft configuration, ILS deviation and power settings, said Mendenhall.

The FSF corporate advisory committee has been involved with the NBAA safety committee in leading C-FOQA activity.