Flight Data Monitoring System: How it Works

Flight Data Monitoring System: How it Works

Flight Data Monitoring System


Since 1st January 2005, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) made Flight Data Monitoring a standard for all Air Transport operations of aircraft over 27 tonnes.

Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is the systematic, proactive use of digital flight data from routine operations to improve aviation safety within an intrinsically non-punitive and just Safety Culture. 

FDM system has many safety benefits by applying Flight Data Analysis (FDA), airline's management proactively identifies, quantify, assess and address flight operational risks and controlling and mitigating them.

With the link with SMS, the aviation industry is increasingly analyzing recorded data from normal operations in support of airlines’ safety management systems (SMS).


Before going deeper on this subject, you need to know what do we mean by proactive?

It is one of three SMS methodologies used to identify hazards through analysis of the airline’s activities. It aims at identifying hazards before they materialize into incidents or accidents and taking the necessary actions to reduce the associated safety risks.

A proactive process is based upon the notion that safety events can be minimized by identifying safety risks within the system before it fails and taking the necessary actions to mitigate such safety risks.

Why the flight data monitoring is important?

The FDM system allows an airline to compare their Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) with those actually achieved in everyday line flights. Furthermore, it supports the airline's SMS by a feedback loop and allows an airline to adopt a timely corrective action where safety may be compromised by significant deviation from SOPs.

Is this enough to understand the importance of a Flight Data Monitoring System?

For those who need further explanation, I will list a number of FDM system objectives.


Flight Data Monitoring System Objectives

The overall objective of the FDM system is to use reported information to improve the level of flight safety and not to attribute blame.

The FDM system I constructed to allow airlines to:

1)   Identify areas of operational risk and quantify current safety margins.

2)   Identify and quantify operational risks by highlighting when non-standard, unusual, or unsafe circumstances occur.

3)   Use the FDM information on the frequency of occurrence, combined with an estimation of the level of severity, to assess the safety risks and to determine which may become unacceptable if the discovered trend continues.

4)   Recommend appropriate procedures for remedial action once an unacceptable risk, either actually present or predicted by trending, has been identified.

5)   Confirm the effectiveness of any remedial action by continued monitoring.


Flight Data Monitoring System

Implementing of Flight Data Monitoring System by the airline needs its top management to demonstrate and show commitment to promoting a proactive safety culture.

Furthermore, Flight Data Monitoring System needs to be managed by a dedicated staff under the authority of the flight safety manager, with a high degree of specialization and logistical support. 

Airlines can use flight crews with experience in the aircraft type to analyze and diagnosis the operational hazards emerging from Flight Data Monitoring System " like FlightDataPeople FDM360".

Flight Data Monitoring System, how it works

Initially, an FDM system is used as part of an Airline's System Safety Assessment to identify deviations from SOPs or areas of risk and measure current safety margins. This will establish a baseline operational measure against which to detect and measure any change.

Example: Current rates of rejected take-offs, hard landings, unstable approaches.

The main elements of the FDM system hardware consist of Quick Access Recorders (QARs) installed on-board all airline aircraft and a software application that is able to decode the data received from every flight. The QARs will record the same parameters as the Digital Flight Data Recorder (DFDR) but located in a more accessible location. Data from these recorders provide the FDM system with the data which will then be analyzed.

Let us define this in stages:

First stage: Flight Data Recording

Information coming from aircraft sensors, onboard computers, and other instruments is recorded into the dedicated FDA recorder (QAR, DAR …).

Second stage: Flight Data Downloading

When the aircraft arrives at the gate, data are either extracted by maintenance staff via optical disc or Personal Computer Memory or automatically via a wireless link.

Third Stage: Flight Data Processing

To transcribe the recorded parameters into exploitable values, raw data must be processed in order to recover the actual values.

Fourth Stage: Flight Data Analysis

Analysts manually filter the developed flights to reject the inconsistent ones and therefore, guarantee the robustness of the database. They look for all high deviation magnitude events in order to assess any serious safety concern and take appropriate corrective action.

Fifth stage: Safety Risk Management, Communication, and Improvement Monitoring

The process starts with the identification of hazards and their potential consequences. The safety risks are then assessed against the threat of potential damage related to the hazard.

Flight Safety Manager, shall take an appropriate and practicable safety action within a reasonable period of time that reflects the probability and severity of the risks.

Once safety action is taken, then an active monitor should be placed on the original problem and a careful assessment made of other hazards in the area of change.



Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) is a proactive and non-punitive program for gathering and analyzing data recorded during routine flights to improve flight crew performance, operating procedures, flight training, air traffic control procedures, air navigation services, or aircraft maintenance and design

It improves aviation safety within an intrinsically non-punitive and just Safety Culture. FDM system is integrated within a safety management system and should be included in the safety management manual.

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) made Flight Data Monitoring a standard on 1st January 2005, for all Air Transport operations of aircraft over 27 tonnes.


For further reading:

-      ICAO Doc No.10000, Manual on Flight Data Analysis Programmes (FDAP).

-      UK CAA, CAP 732, Flight Data Monitoring

-      Mr. Joel Delhom, Flight Data Analysis (FDA), a Predictive Tool for Safety Management System (SMS), Safety first #17 January 2014.

-      ICAO Doc No. 9859, Safety Management Manual (SMM)

Maged Saeed AL-Hadabi

I’m Instructor / Maged Saeed Al-Hadabi. ​ Air Cargo / IATA Dangerous Goods Regulations / Safety Management System Senior Instructor, Auditor [ Yemen Airways] . Approved IATA DGR/ SMS Instructor by Yemen Civil Aviation Authority. We hope you find Aviation Professional website not only informative, but interesting and helpful as well. Leave your comment , thank you.

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