October 17, 2018 | by Matt Thurber
For owners and operators of business aircraft, the opportunity to participate in a corporate-flight operational quality assurance (C-FOQA) program depends greatly on the availability of equipment that records flight data and the ease of downloading and sharing that data. Avionica, a manufacturer of quick-access recorders (QARs), aims to ease those difficulties and encourage more business aircraft operators to realize the benefits of participating in C-FOQA.
Earlier this year, GE Aviation purchased a portion of Avionica (Booth 1351). The deal includes a joint venture under which GE (Booth 224) sells Avionica products and offers its analytics services, while Avionica provides its flight data management solutions.
One result of the joint venture is Avionica’s business jet bundle, which includes the Avionica QAR with C-FOQA and avSync. The QAR is STC’d in more than 300 aircraft models, ranging from the Pilatus PC-12 to the Boeing 777, and recently Avionica has targeted more Part 23 airplanes for QAR installations. In addition to the PC-12, the QAR is also certified in the Cirrus Vision Jet and HondaJet, along with many other business jet types.
“The bundle is about enabling C-FOQA across the business aircraft market,” said Avionica COO Anthony Rios. Many modern aircraft are able to store engine and operational data, but for C-FOQA programs this data needs to be downloaded after a flight then sent to an analysis firm. The process can sometimes take weeks before the analysis is generated, and by then the information is irrelevant. “The key here is that small operators find it difficult to participate in C-FOQA,” he said.
Avionica’s avSync system makes C-FOQA much easier by automatically downloading QAR data and sending it to GE servers for analysis. The new avSync 2.0 system is a cloud-based, private and secure network for transmitting QAR information via cellular networks worldwide. As soon as the aircraft lands and if a cellular connection is available, the data is transmitted. Buyers of the Avionica bundle receive a one-year subscription to the network as part of the $15,000 equipment cost.
Another reason that small operators sometimes don’t see the benefit of FOQA is that with just one or two aircraft, it is hard to generate enough data for meaningful statistics. With C-FOQA, data from many operators is combined to provide comparison benchmarks that are more useful. “C-FOQA allows small operators to participate in a large population of airplanes,” Rios said.
Another QAR benefit is monitoring of important parameters such as engine trends or airframe limit exceedances. For example, a pilot given a rapid descent instruction by air traffic control might inadvertently fly near the flap limit speed but not be sure whether the airplane exceeded the limit. A suspected exceedance has to be examined, which could put the airplane out of service pending a structural inspection of the flaps system.
Knowing precisely whether or not the limit was exceeded by examining QAR data can resolve this problem quickly. “Once the data has already been transmitted, the maintenance officer could look it up,” Rios said.
The Avionica hardware weighs about 15 ounces and uses very little power. On a modern aircraft that generates a large amount of data, the QAR can store about 1,000 flight hours. An older aircraft with less data generated would be able to store about 3,000 hours in the QAR, the company said.