January 2017 - Journal of Aerospace Information Systems: Historically, rotorcraft have featured higher accident and incident rates compared to fixed-wing air carrier and general aviation aircraft. Safety improvements are currently sought through the adoption of flight data monitoring, a voluntary and proactive safety program where retrospective analysis of flight data records identifies precursors of safety-critical events and tracks improvements pursuant of corrective measures. This paper provides a review of flight data monitoring and elaborates on the unique and significant challenges of its implementation for rotorcraft operations. Two enhancements to current practice are presented in the form of physics-based model integration for improved safety event definition and detection and integration with external data sources to evaluate meaningful safety metrics supplemental to a priori operational event detection. For the former, it is demonstrated that a model-based approach to helicopter autorotation significantly improves characterization of operational safety boundaries and misidentification of safety events. For the latter, it is shown that the integration of obstacles data with flight data records is key to evaluate collision risk, a critical safety issue in low-altitude rotorcraft operations, latent in a given rotorcraft flight. A qualitative evaluation was conducted by eliciting input from subject-matter experts who agreed that the proposed metrics are effective at conveying information about the associated risk.
January 2017 - Journal of Aerospace Information Systems https://doi.org/10.2514/1.I010467