Ramon Lopez/WASHINGTON DC and David Learmount/LONDON

THE PROTOTYPE for a massive new US national safety database has started operation. The system will be able to filter downloaded operational data from digital flight-data recorders (DFDRs) for events which have safety significance, and store them centrally for trend analysis and problem identification.

The Automated Performance Measuring System (APMS) being developed by the US Federal Aviation Administration and NASA is a computerised system for analysing, processing and managing the DFDR data with the intention of making performance data easier to use.

The APMS is a crucial building block in the FAA's implementation of its nationwide flight-operations quality-assurance programme. The programme represents the main hope in the drive towards a "zero-accidents" industry.

The APMS will be usable by the FAA, air carriers and pilots to screen data from regular operations to detect potential safety problems. For example, it could be used to spot-check aircraft-separation standards. Airlines could use it to evaluate the efficiency of flight operations and aircraft maintenance and to identify operational problems specific to airports or aircraft. It could also be used, to make pilot recurrent training, more specific to individual pilots' needs.

Use of FDR data has been slow to develop partly because processing the large quantity of data generated by the airlines has been labour-intensive. The system is a prototype, but once tested, its technology will be made available to industry, for commercial production. Other countries are setting up similar programmes.

See Feature, P29.

Source: Flight International