The US National Transportation Safety Board recommends that all Part 135 operators install flight-data monitoring (FDM) technology. But every operation can reap FDM’s safety and operational performance benefits. Best of all, modern FDM equipment is lighter, less expensive, and easier to use than legacy models, placing the technology within reach of small and medium-sized operators. Below are five best practices to help you on your FDM journey.

1. DON’T invest in FDM equipment without making an equal commitment to build an ongoing program to analyze and act on the information. Installing equipment without a plan to constructively use the data will waste time and money and provide no benefit.

2. DO seek help from others when starting your FDM journey. Ask other operators about their FDM installations and how they overcame early challenges. Reach out to industry organizations like HAI and AAMS to research FDM options. The answers you seek are just a call or click away.

3. DON’T make FDM a substitute for a safety management system (SMS). Yes, FDM will provide you with data about hazards, but only SMS will provide you with the complete tools to manage safety effectively, including a systematic approach to ongoing hazard analysis and risk mitigation. Without a foundational SMS, stand-alone safety initiatives, including FDM, will likely be exposed as costly half-measures and fail.

4. DO follow FDM product and service markets closely. As technologies and capabilities continue to mature, your barrier to implementing FDM technology may be lower than you thought. There are multiple options and price points available; you can start small and plan for expansion as your FDM program grows (and as you start reaping the benefits).

5. DON’T allow FDM to become a mechanism for a gotcha! mentality; instead, use it within the framework of a just culture. While you mustn’t ignore egregious violations, the bulk of your FDM data should be used to improve operational safety and performance by finding and closing gaps in policies, procedures, training, and skills.

Thanks to Chris Hill, HAI director of safety, and the panelists on the Jul. 9, 2020, HAI@Work webinar, “Harnessing the Value of Helicopter Flight-Data Monitoring”: Jeff Currin, FOQA manager, Life Flight Network; Pete Henrikson, president and founder, Truth Data; Zach Powers, FOQA program manager, Air Methods Corp.; and Ryan Smith, flight safety manager, PHI Americas. Listen to the recorded webinar to learn more about FDM.

WATCH the FDM webinar