NBAA Convention News

Common in the airline world, FOQA for bizav’s catching on

 - November 13, 2006, 7:59 AM

Encouraged by feedback from operators, the Flight Safety Foundation is extending its corporate flight-operations quality-assurance (C-FOQA) program, despite a “painfully slow start.” The initial phase began late last year, involving three aircraft–two Gulfstream IVs and a Dassault Falcon 900–and two operators.

Now, working with NBAA, the foundation is preparing to approach more business aircraft operators, including fractional-ownership providers. There has been strong interest lately from additional corporate flight departments, according to program coordinator Ted Mendenhall.

Most interest has come from companies flying larger corporate jets, which Medenhall said is not surprising. “There is a cost involved, which can make it tough for smaller operators,” he said. The C-FOQA program is a simpler exercise with larger aircraft than with small jets because higher end models usually come already fitted with digital flight-data recorders (FDR) and other relatively sophisticated equipment. While most corporate aircraft are not equipped with FDRs, even fewer are fitted with small, light, state-of-the-art quick access recorders.

Earlier this year, the Flight Safety Foundation gave the first quarterly reports to participating operators, who were reportedly “very pleased” with observations provided by analysis of their flights during last year’s final quarter.

Mendenhall, a former director of flight operations and chief of safety at Gulfstream Aerospace, attributes the halting beginning to aircraft hardware and software considerations, as well as operators’ legal considerations.

C-FOQA typically involves routine analysis of flight data from line operations to reveal safety situations and practices that might require corrective action. Accidents can be prevented through identification of potential problems, using quick-access flight-data recorders and related software for routine data collection. Results can improve line operational safety, training effectiveness, airport surface safety, and operational, maintenance, engineering and ATC procedures.

The main difference between corporate and airline operations is that company fleets are small–usually fewer than four aircraft–so it is difficult to get a large sample of data. During analysis, information can be compared with the entire fleet of such aircraft and the owner’s operations manual or standard operating procedures to determine how the fleet is being operated.

Participating C-FOQA operators send information to a single data processor. Analysis of selected parameters includes comparisons with how aircraft are being flown by other operators of the same types. C-FOQA is expected to highlight areas of operation that can be studied more closely. Although Mendenhall does not imply that it is a problem with initial participants, FSF is considering tailwind approaches.

“The program covers selected operations parameters, with particular attention being paid to execution of stabilized approaches,” he explained. The FSF’s approach/landing accident-reduction risk- assessment analysis includes speed, position above/below the glideslope, rate of descent and distance remaining.

Other elements noted are aircraft configuration, ILS deviation and power settings, according to Mendenhall, who said the three aircraft currently involved in C-FOQA are “enough to prove the concept.” He told NBAA Convention News that “in large measure” the 700 to 800 initial results have matched expectations.

With airlines and corporate operations exposed to potential overruns as a result of aircraft landing faster and further down the runway, analysis compares approach speed with groundspeed, indicating differences of one to four knots, five to nine knots and 10-plus knots. Mendenhall said there is concern about the two latter speed ranges: “We’re looking to see aircraft flying a go-around, but pilots are always tempted to put it down. We look for a go-around policy in the operations manual.”