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NASA's Aviation Safety and Modeling Project

Capabilities for automated analysis of flight data are under development.

The Aviation Safety Monitoring and Modeling (ASMM) Project of NASA’s Aviation Safety program is cultivating sources of data and developing automated computer hardware and software to facilitate efficient, comprehensive, and accurate analyses of the data collected from large, heterogeneous databases throughout the national aviation system. The ASMM addresses the need to provide means for increasing safety by enabling the identification and correcting of predisposing conditions that could lead to accidents or to incidents that pose aviation risks.

ImageA major component of the ASMM Project is the Aviation Performance Measuring System (APMS), which is developing the next generation of software tools for analyzing and interpreting flight data (see figure). Airlines, military units, corporate operators, and others analyze aircraft flight data to identify contributing factors and corrective actions for situations in which aircraft performance parameters exceed normal limits during phases of flight. The programs for performing such exceedance-based analyses are denoted flight operations quality assurance (FOQA in civilian settings) programs and take their inspiration from statistical process control. However, FOQA analysis involves use of only a portion of the data: large quantities of data are scanned to extract and understand a small number of predefined events. The sets of data contain far more information that is potentially helpful for understanding and enhancing the safety, reliability, and economy of flight operations.

The challenge is to find and understand key information from the mass of data generated by aircraft and collected by data recorders. There is a need to automate scanning, analysis, and reporting to produce meaningful information upon which human analysts can act. The APMS software is intended to satisfy this need. Beginning with workload enhancements to exceedance-based FOQA analyses and progressing to sophisticated multivariate statistical analyses, the APMS has developed key software tools to advance the science of flight-data analysis.

Another major component of the ASMM Project is the Performance Data Analysis and Reporting System (PDARS), which is developing networking and analysis hardware and software for application air-traffic-control (ATC) radar data. PDARS, which was developed jointly with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Office of System Capacity, provides ATC decision-makers at the facility level with a comprehensive means of monitoring the health, performance, and safety of day-to-day ATC operations. PDARS enables analysis of daily operation of the National Airspace System (NAS) at local and inter-facility levels. By translating flight track and flight-plan data into useful performance information, PDARS significantly augments the ability of the FAA to adjust operational procedures and techniques. The net outcomes of these adjustments are quantifiable improvements in safety and efficiency throughout the NAS.