Avionics News May 2012 - 37
As airborne automation and communication become the norm rather than the exception, storing, retrieving and using flight data by even the smallest operators likely will grow as a practice, something organizations throughout the world are realizing.
flight data recorder, the kind of device made famous throughout the years in airline accident investigations and commonly known to the public as a “black box.” The FDR, along with its companion, the cockpit voice recorder, often has figured prominently in aircraft accident investigations since they were routinely installed on airliners, such as the first Boeing 707s, which entered commercial service in 1958. By the early 1960s, the devices were being required by aviation regulators around the world. The first FDRs were primitive by today’s standards, recording only basic information via a stylus inscribing thin foil. Mainstream CVRs initially stored data on a looped magnetic tape, recording only the previous 30 minutes of cockpit audio, then starting over. Today, FDRs and CVRs have gone all-digital, storing a minimum of 88 flight parameters under Federal Aviation Administration regulations and as many as 25 hours of cockpit conversation. Video recording of the flight deck and various displays likely is next, although privacy concerns raised by pilot organizations must first be resolved. Of course, the FDR and CVR are designed for accident investigation and, as such, are tightly regulated. But, operators facing increasingly lean airline economics wanted a way to actively monitor an aircraft’s systems without depending on the sometimes-anecdotal
information supplied by their crews. Enter the quickaccess recorder, or QAR, which – as its name implies – affords operators easy and ready access to the same sort of data crash investigators review. They’re found on modern airliners of all sizes, plus many business jets. Trickling Down As with most new aviation technologies, the ability to store and retrieve flight data started to migrate down from large transports to personal aircraft. While not universal, it’s nonetheless rare today that a new aircraft would leave its factory and not have some sort of data recording device installed, whether required or not. Smart operators routinely retrieve the data and analyze it, looking for looming maintenance problems, as an electronic record for retention, as backup to paper logbooks and, of course, to monitor crew performance. When considering most “steam-gauge” personal aircraft, generating and storing flight performance data didn’t really go mainstream until the advent of electronic engine monitors. In addition to providing cylinder temperature, oil, turbine, fuel flow, exhaust gas and other digital data to pilots on a real-time basis, the evolved standard in this product category includes storage and retrieval of these and other parameters. The
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