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Addressing Safety and Maintenance Concerns without Increasing LRU Count

April 12, 2016 | BY: Steve Leaper

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Integrating Data Acquisition within a Flight Data Recorder

Aircraft operators are constantly looking for ways to save space and weight of onboard avionics units. For many operators, a Flight Data Recorder (FDR) is an essential item that must be installed to meet regulatory requirements. For many others, although it is not mandated by regulators, having a FDR is desirable in order to improve safety in the long term by having a facility to assess why an incident may have occurred.

Aircraft operators are also increasingly looking to gather more information during flight to help reduce maintenance costs, optimize fuel burn, increase safety and for ongoing training purposes. Avionics units are available that can measure various onboard parameters and store this information in a single unit for download post flight. However, adding an extra box to perform such functions adds weight, takes up space and creates a more complicated installation challenge.

Advances in electronics mean processing power and storage density has been increasing but certain physical restraints can limit how compact avionics boxes can be – connector requirements for example. In the case of FDRs, the requirements to protect data in extreme conditions limits how small the crash tube (where the storage is located) can be. One strategy to overcome such limitations is to combine functions where possible. This could provide the benefits of additional data acquisition for post flight analysis applications without having to add another box onto an aircraft.

Aircraft operators know that removing weight lowers fuel burn and space is a valuable commodity on all aircraft. FDRs are required by regulations on many aircraft and are increasingly seen as valuable even when not mandatory. At the same time, the drive to lower maintenance costs and increase operational performance is making data acquisition and recording systems more attractive. Combining the functions of a FDR and a data acquisition unit can enable such applications without having the weight and space penalties of two separate units.

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Author’s Biography

Steve Leaper

Product and Avionics Bids Manager

Steve Leaper works for Curtiss-Wright in the role of product manager for flight recorders and bids manager. He joined Curtiss-Wright in 1986, initially working with tape based voice and flight data recorders. Steve has spent virtually all of his career working with the flight recorder product range, with extensive knowledge of the product range and requirements. Steve has held the position of programme manager and had key account management responsibility for AgustaWestland, BAE Systems, and Goodrich amongst others whilst also representing Curtiss-Wright at international committees such as ARINC and EUROCAE.

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