Aircraft equipped with Avidyne IFD, Atlas, and Helios avionics will soon be able to participate in a flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) flight safety program led by Avidyne, with data analysis provided by CloudAhoy and data download and transmission via AirSync hardware.
The IFD GPS navigator and Atlas and Helios flight management systems are equipped with attitude reference sensors, GPS, and the ability to record avionics data via the aircraft’s databus. Depending on the avionics in the aircraft, a lot of data can be available. For example, in a Collins Pro Line 21 flight deck, the IFD can capture more granular data from the avionics general purpose bus, including air data, corrected and uncorrected barometric information, and some engine parameters, explained Dave Miner, Avidyne general manager of business aviation. “Even if the IFD is not using the data, whatever is coming in on the digital bus is being captured and recorded,” he said. “The more information coming in, even if we’re not using it, the IFD is able to transmit out via Wi-Fi.”
Although the data can be manually downloaded in the form of .csv log files, which are normally used for troubleshooting the Avidyne avionics, it made sense to find an easier way to move the data.
Charlie Precourt, U.S. Air Force Colonel (ret.) and former NASA astronaut/Shuttle commander, was instrumental in helping to develop Avidyne’s FOQA program, after he had an IFD545 installed in his Citation CJ1+ and realized how much flight data it records. He started working with data downloaded from his jet and the IFD545, then showed his findings to Avidyne. “It happened to be a clean, quick, out-of-the-box solution for what we wanted to do,” said Miner.
“We came to find out with Charlie’s help and expertise, he’s been able to get [AirSync] to capture that without a pilot interface, out of the built-in Wi-Fi from the IFD units.”
Using the IFD’s Wi-Fi, data is transferred to the AirSync box. Then once on the ground, it is transmitted via AirSync’s cellular connectivity to a pilot’s CloudAhoy account. Once it's in CloudAhoy, the pilot can analyze the flight data in many ways, including scoring against preset standards and with graphic overlays on maps and approach charts.
“The beauty is it doesn’t take any pilot action,” said Dan Reida, Avidyne's director of business aviation sales. The AirSync plugs into USB power on the aircraft, and after it detects power off when the flight ends, it automatically sends the data captured by the Avidyne avionics to CloudAhoy’s servers. Pilots can view the flight analysis on mobile devices or any browser.
The CloudAhoy report card will show the pilot an evaluation of key parameters, using a red-yellow-green indicator, based on values such as Vref, landing distance from threshold, speed over threshold, and touchdown point.
“The way I would use it,” said Miner, “is that if it appears I’m always landing long, over 10 knots too fast, and flying an extra 500 feet [before touchdown], I need to improve. My awareness is way up.” If a bad habit is becoming entrenched, CloudAhoy will highlight that degradation, with green performances trending to yellow or red. “Before anything bad happens, I can get back to green,” he said.
“Based on the success of FOQA programs in commercial and military aviation, we believe that access to affordable FOQA flight data will give business and general aviation pilots the opportunity to evaluate their performance, spot trends, and take corrective action before a serious incident can occur,” said Precourt.
Avidyne is planning to offer various levels of service for its FOQA Flight Data Intelligence program, with one-stop shopping for the hardware and analysis services. Cost is expected to run in the hundreds of dollars per year, and there will be varying levels of service, so “it fits a lot of markets,” said Reida.
The FOQA analysis could also be de-identified and shared with operators of similar aircraft to help them spot trends. “It is a real game-changer for business and general aviation,” said Miner.