Avionics News May 2012 - 38
Continued from page 37
GENERAL AVIATION FLIGHT RECORDERS
data can be used to monitor and identify engine performance trends, enhancing the quality of prophylactic maintenance and inspections while providing valuable, timesaving clues when troubleshooting operational issues. But, engine monitors only track what powerplants are doing. Data on where the aircraft was, how high, how fast and other parameters wasn’t commonly available aboard aircraft not required to carry an FDR until the advent of portable GPS navigators from companies, such as Garmin. Not only did these handheld devices store position, altitude and speed information, popular navigators could display the data as high-tech breadcrumbs, enabling detailed ﬂight histories. Supporting software also became available, allowing users to electronically manage personal logbooks and aircraft records simply by plugging the navigator into a personal computer. It was just a matter of
memory card for later retrieval. Or, when paired with the company’s GDL 59 Data Logger and Wi-Fi Datalink, it can then be downloaded from the aircraft via a Wi-Fi hotspot. Meanwhile, Garmin’s GSR 56 allows critical data to be sent immediately to a predetermined IP address via the Iridium satellite network. Beneﬁts Regardless of a manufacturer’s motivation behind its decision to include flight-data recording capabilities in its products, many benefits can be derived. One of them involves installation troubleshooting. According to Steve Jacobson, Avidyne vice president of product management, “As part of the ground-based ops check procedures... if something doesn’t work in accordance with the procedures, it’s very easy for the installer at his level to go to that page (of the device) and use those tools and say, ‘Aha; here’s the issue.’” Similarly, an in-service aircraft’s avionics will generate error messages facilitating diagnosis and repair in the field. If needed, the factory can trace down a problem to the individual component, a resistor, for example. To date, the company has delivered more than 9,000 products with some or all of these capabilities. Of course, self-test and analysis is nothing new for modern avionics. Instead, it’s the detailed data available to pilots and operators – and accident investigators – and its many uses that makes the flight data’s presence aboard this aircraft class interesting. Training is a good example. “We don’t consider ourselves to be in the training business,” Jacobson said. “But, you can easily imagine the guys who are in the training business and who have access to this data – either during the flight or immediately post-flight – can play back instructional tools for their students.” Take instrument flight instruction. Avidyne’s flight-data storage and retrieval implementation features sufficient granularity to determine, for example, the quality of an ILS intercept or when certain buttons – like those engaging a PFD’s approach mode – were pushed. “Hey look... you made two switch errors here,” Jacobson continued. “You turned onto course over here, or you were confused as to what happened in this state, so let’s just play it back and watch what happened.” Drawbacks At the same time, whenever a new technology is developed with the capability of monitoring and tracking human performance, issues can arise. When considering
Whether operators know their avionics’ capabilities and can use them to the fullest is, at least in part, a role filled by the professional avionics technician.
time before this capability migrated from portable devices into a personal aircraft’s instrument panel. That point came in December 2001, when Avidyne brought to market its EX5000 MFD. For the ﬁrst time, comprehensive ﬂight data storage and retrieval was available to piston-airplane operators. But, an operator’s ability to monitor the aircraft’s performance over time wasn’t the company’s ﬁrst motivation. Instead, and in part to the Avidyne systems’ architecture, the data was just there, and the company’s decision to implement data storage and retrieval capabilities on its MFDs and PFDs posed little threat of increasing the product’s cost, but brought many beneﬁts with it. Of course, Avidyne isn’t the only avionics manufacturer to put such capabilities in its products. Garmin’s G1000 glass-panel system can record some 75 key ﬂight and engine parameters each second, a relatively common data sampling rate. The G1000’s data can be stored on a