Big Data on the Flight Line
To manage and process the huge mass of data generated by aircraft, Safran offers data analysis tools and services to airlines and other operators. It collects, analyzes and applies this data to enhance flight safety, reduce operating costs and help protect the environment.
A slight hiccup…
The Airbus A320neo banks to the right to start its approach to the runway for landing. Both the pilot and co-pilot are following the approach procedure recommended by their airline.
They perform a final check before touchdown: everything is OK. Their descent proceeds normally, despite the gusting wind that shakes the plane – a phenomenon for which this airport is well-known.
The wheels are just a few meters above the runway. The captain puts the nose up slightly, reduces engine thrust and lands… but not everything goes exactly as planned, as the aircraft hits the ground much harder than planned.
An hour later, at the hub of the carrier, Airline One, several thousand kilometers away, the maintenance manager Maxime receives a "hard landing" alert on his computer. One of the airline's planes has just made a hard landing, which entails a risk of damaging the landing gear.
He receives this information via a report called ACMS Hard Landing (Aircraft Condition Monitoring System).
The ACMS is a data acquisition unit on the plane, fed by various sensors and systems. It records data throughout the flight, including engine thrust, fuel consumption, airspeed, brake condition and more.
Turning raw data into useful information
Maxime has to act fast, because an event like this means that the plane can't take off again without undergoing a mandatory technical inspection. But to better understand the situation and dispatch the ground crew if required, he needs more detailed information.
Using the plane's own WEFA (wireless extension for ACMS), it takes only a few minutes to automatically transfer all data recorded by the ACMS.
As soon as all the data is downloaded, Maxime immediately starts his analysis, using the Cassiopée AGS (Analysis Ground Station) software to decode the flight data and place it in context. This gives Airline One management a complete vision of the servicing operations needed.
Cassiopée is an array of services from Safran Electronics & Defense, a world leader in flight data management, that makes sense out of all the collected data. Everybody involved at the airline can use this data 24-7, including the maintenance manager, flight safety officer and air ops manager.
The underlying causes
A quick look at the data is conclusive: it is indeed a hard landing, as mentioned in the pilot's flight record. An in-depth analysis of the flight data helped identify some of the causes, mainly touching down too far along the runway, and coming in a little too fast, probably due to the weather.
Maxime immediately schedules a ground inspection on site to check out the landing gear that may have been damaged. At the same time, the flight operations ("flight ops") manager, who was also informed of the incident, is ready to order another plane to take over the following flight if needed.
The safety imperative
In the meantime, Christophe, the flight safety officer at Airline One, is using Cassiopée AGS to replay the flight, so he can better understand why the plane made a hard landing, even though the pilot followed all procedures to the letter. He will subsequently carry out another data analysis using Cassiopée Smart Data. This is a solution that helps identify, for example, landing trends at this airport over the past year.
He notes that the airport has reported several hard landings in the past few months. So it's absolutely vital that they review the approach and landing procedure for the airline's A320 fleet.
Six months later, Christophe will be able to look back with a practiced eye and assess the effectiveness of any changes made.
A constellation of services
In the end, the verdict is a good one: the A320neo is authorized for takeoff, since the landing gear wasn't affected.
Cassiopée services have largely proven their mettle over the years, based on more than 20 million flight-hours analyzed and 200 customers worldwide: they effectively identify events that entail risks and quickly schedule servicing if needed, as well as helping airlines improve their operating procedures.