The Digital Flight Report: the advantages of going paperless
With its new "Digital Flight Report" application Safran provides helicopter fleet operators with an intuitive and secure tool to issue paperless flight reports.
A profession driven by passion
Approaching the heliport, Jean-François, a pilot and instructor in a helicopter company, carefully observes the actions of his pupil Frédéric. The aircraft's trajectory is perfect, nice and even. After hovering for a few seconds above the big "H" marking the landing zone, the helicopter touches down gently.
Once the throttle is pulled down, the motor stops. While Frédéric goes through the "post-flight checklist", Jean-François, prepares to debrief him, for which he can draw on his long experience at the company training amateur and professional pilots.
He has been with the company, one of the largest in France in this market, for over ten years now. It has a fleet of 30 single-engine and twin-engine helicopters with seating for 4 to 6 passengers.
Some are used for transport, others are dedicated to specific missions such as fighting forest fires, aerial photography, lifting operations, or pilot instruction. The company also runs an air ambulance service on behalf of the French emergency paramedics.
The company is equipped with an approved Part-145 service workshop. This European certification issued in France by the national civil aviation authority (DGAC), authorizes the company to carry out maintenance and repair operations on helicopters and to issue flight permits to repaired or overhauled helicopters. It has a team of twenty experienced technicians.
The flight report
Jean-François turns to Frédéric to congratulate him on a good session:
You did very well! But before continuing the debrief inside, let's talk about the flight report. As you know, when a pilot has finished using a helicopter, whatever kind of flight it was, he or she must complete this regulatory procedure required by aviation authorities all over the world. It means that at the end of the day, there are as many flight reports as there were flights made by each helicopter in the fleet...
Jean-François then reminds the young pilot of the importance of the flight report, particularly in the context of the maintenance operations scheduled according to the number of hours flown and the number of cycles (takeoffs and landings).
This is a traditional flight report, still known as a "Form 11".
The instructor explains that the pilot must fill in all the fields that make up the so-called "user data ": the number of flight hours and cycles, destinations, corresponding schedules, but also unusual events that may have occurred between the time the pilot took possession of the machine and when the engine was turned off...
Frédéric examines the document and exclaims:
I guess this means I have to fill it all in by hand! It looks like it's going to take a while... and there's no room for error.
Jean-François confirms that entering the data is indeed a long and tedious task, and that there's a real risk of error that is potentially dangerous:
It could have an effect on the airworthiness of the aircraft and consequences for the maintenance schedule. In addition, the time spent completing the document, multiplied by the number of helicopters in the fleet, represents a significant economic impact!
Digital Flight Report
The Digital Flight Report app allows to do a digital flight report
The Digital Flight Report application
Taking back the form, Jean-François adds:
The good news is that today you won't have to fill in anything by hand thanks to a very efficient application that does it all for you!
He grabs his smartphone, presses on an application and continues:
This is Digital Flight Report , the app that will let you do a paperless flight report that is totally reliable, in no time at all...
He then explains that the Digital Flight Report app uses an embedded device to record the information from the helicopter "bus" (data transmission device).
Jean-François shows his smartphone screen to his student:
It's really simple to use: first, I open the Flight Report application. Then it downloads all the aircraft data automatically. If I want, I can add written comments to the report. Today, I have nothing special to add, so, after a few seconds, all I have to do is to sign electronically using biometric face recognition. As if I was doing a selfie with my smartphone! All the information is validated and directly transmitted to the various recipients via a secure Bluetooth connection.
A gain in time, performance and reliability
Jean-François invites his student to get out of the helicopter in order to visit the company. He opens the door to the fleet manager's office, which oversees all the technical, regulatory and commercial aspects of the operator's helicopters:
Alain, this is Frédéric, my new student. I've just explained to him how useful the Digital Flight Report app is and how you use it...
Alain asks Frédéric to have a look on the tablet he is holding:
Look, all the information is already available in the company's computer system! There's no need for us to enter the data from paper, I have everything I need to work with straight away. You see, the new EC-135, which you've just flown, has accumulated 385 flight hours and I know I have to program its first maintenance inspection at 400 hours.
saved per week per helicopter
saved per year for a fleet of 30 helicopters
He explains that in addition to monitoring the maintenance schedule, the Digital Flight Report makes it much easier to manage stocks of spare parts and various consumables (oils, fluids, etc.), or to update the log books.
Depending on the helicopter's flight schedule, it will be immobilized for a few days while the technicians in the maintenance department dismantle the unit to check all the working parts, according to the manufacturer's recommendations.
Alain then explains that this technology also centralizes the data while eliminating errors that can occur while inputting data in maintenance devices.
It also paves the way for Health Monitoring, a system designed to anticipate breakdown risks:
What's good about Digital Flight Report is that it also provides us with all the data collected by the flight recorders. These additional digital data can then be used on other service platforms embedded in Safran technologies such as Boost or Cassiopée.
And it means the maintenance cabinets are no longer stuffed with thousands of forms!
adds Jean-François smiling.
Further advantages for the operator
As they head into the debriefing room, Jean-François and his student pass the accounting department.
I almost forgot! he exclaims, the user data from the flight report is also sent to accounting. It comes in very handy when issuing invoices to clients, with no risk of error on the services being billed. The payroll service also benefits from this application when drawing up payslips for the pilots who are paid per flight hour...
To conclude on the subject, Jean-François explains that the Digital Flight Report has a positive and significant impact on operating costs:
Between the time saved on entering data, maintenance, billing, tracking, etc., we estimate that we gain about 2 hours per helicopter per week. For our fleet of 30 helicopters, that represents an annual saving of between €200,000 and €250,000... Well, now you know all you need to know about the Digital Flight Report, so why don't we talk about your flight?