Flight Operations Quality Assurance
Flight Operations Quality Assurance (FOQA) is a form of Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) used in the North America region. FOQA is a voluntary safety program used to reduce risks in commercial aviation, therefore making flight operations safer for the organization and it’s passengers. The program allows for both the airlines and pilots to share non-identified aggregate information with the FAA, which then uses this data to perform monitoring and trend analysis of aircraft operations (FAA, 2004). This helps the FAA to prioritize and to optimize its limited resources to better address operational risks in flight operations, Air Traffic Control (ATC) and at airports. These three key stakeholders will benefit from an increase in safety as FOQA not only identifies and reduces safety risks but also helps these stakeholders to minimize deviations from official regulations. In addition, all data recorded in FOQA are kept confidential, so as to promote a strong safety reporting culture (Aviation Knowledge, 2009). Hence, FOQA can be used in an aviation safety program as a method to collect performance data, analyze it and address any gaps found.
Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) is a system which provides a digital data link for the transmission of messages between flying aircraft and ground stations. ACARS has been in use since 1978 and originally operated on the VHF transmission frequencies (Skybrary, 2016). The system conveys messages from three primary sources based on the information that each source provides, which are messages from the ATC, Aeronautical Operational Control (AOC) and Airline Administrative Control (AAC) respectively. ACARS ATC messages typically consist of information about Pre-Departure, Automatic Terminal Information Service (ATIS) and en-route clearances. AOC and AAC messages can convey information between the aircraft and it’s operating base, and the content varies due to different organization needs. Examples of contents are weather information; aircraft technical performance data; aircraft position, diversion and ETA; fuel quantity; and aircraft faults. ACARS is also capable of free text messaging. The advantage of the ACARS system is that it works in addition to the normal protocol of voice communications. This provides redundancy in terms of communications to the aircraft. In addition, ACARS can monitor aircraft parameters and send the information back to home base automatically before the aircraft lands. This provides a form of on-board diagnostics, allowing for airlines to better monitor the health of their aircraft and hence, ACARS is useful to aviation safety programs.
Proactive and Predictive SMS
Both FOQA and ACARS have the capability integrate into a proactive and predictive SMS program. FOQA is a form of flight data monitoring that records flight data, allowing for the subsequent trend analysis and implementation of safety measures to mitigate future accidents. Previously unknown risks can be uncovered using FOQA, and hence this system is proactive and predictive. Organizations will be able to use this data to determine which areas of concern need to be addressed first, and allocate their limited resources accordingly.
ACARS is a system whereby a digital data link is formed for the transmission of text messages between the aircraft and the organization on the ground. This system can be proactive and predictive as it allows for the automatic transmission of critical aircraft parameters to the ground control centers, aiding the airlines with monitoring the health of their aircraft. Airlines can better plan for unscheduled maintenance when a fault is detected, instead of waiting for the fault to manifest into a bigger problem leading to an incident.