White Papers

Mitigating Flight Data Recorder Modification Issues using Modular FDAUs

July 06, 2018 | BY: Stephen Willis, Steve Leaper

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The Need for Data Collection and Conditioning

Flight Data Recorders (FDR) are necessary for any aircraft to provide valuable information to accident investigators following an incident. FDRs have, for the commercial world, usually been developed in accordance to ARINC 747 which describes a 1/2 ATR chassis form factor with a standard ARINC 717 FDR interface. ARINC 747 defines recorder characteristics that should be followed so that installers and users can interchange from one recorder to another. However, for lighter aircraft, including rotorcraft, smaller and lighter solutions are desirable. Adjustments are required not only so they meet an aircraft’s interface requirements or current regulations but possibly to accommodate additional data for other applications. Such modifications may be costly or require additional flight data acquisition units (FDAU) to fulfil requirements due to the high cost of changing out critical safety equipment.

Flight Data Recorder, FDR

Figure 1: Not everyone needs the same recorder – outsourcing data collection and conditioning to an FDAU opens up new possibilities

Using FDAUs

A common approach is to use an intermediary unit to gather the required data and send it to the recorder in a compatible data stream. Such a unit is commonly called an FDAU and it acts as a translator between the aircraft data sources and the FDR. The regulations specify what parameters must be gathered (such as altitude, airspeed and so forth) but it does not specify the source i.e. the avionics bus, sensor type, etc. This means that no one design of FDAU can meet the aircraft requirements without some level of modification itself, although as the FDAU does not need to survive a crash event, it has far less stringent standards to adhere to and thus, in general, costs less to modify.

This white paper discusses different strategies for gathering data for flight data recorders and the implications these have on deployment time, system flexibility and suitability for deployment across a fleet of diverse aircraft. Download the Mitigating Flight Data Recorder Modification Issues using Modular FDAUs White paper to learn more about:


Author’s Biography

Stephen Willis

Product Marketing Specialist

Stephen Willis works for Curtiss-Wright in the role of Product Marketing Specialist. He has a degree in Electrical Engineering, a Masters in Philosophy for research in mathematical models and their market application for risk assessment and a PG Dip in marketing and management. His current research interests include data acquisition, recording and control systems and their applications in enabling a cost effective route to gathering large amounts of data. In particular, applications of interest include flight test, crash protected recording and structural/ usage monitoring programs. He is the author of several of academic papers and magazine articles.

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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