Monitoring Small Aircraft 2
Dave Jesse on May 18, 2017



In January 2015 I wrote a short blog entitled “Monitoring Small Aircraft”. It described how we can monitor relatively small aircraft when they are equipped with modern digital avionics. Specifically (and please don’t interpret this as advertising) the Garmin G1000 system, which includes a data card facility for recording flight data.

The original blog included details of a late climb before landing. To give you a flavour of what this kind of FDM is about, here is a second extract from the report that we prepared at that time. This is a case of a late turn onto the runway.

Late turn onto runway

This is one of the flights with a curving approach, where the aircraft is still turning late on the approach. Plotting the data for the last minute before landing shows a 167 degree heading change with bank angles reaching 25 deg right wing low.


Image 1


The last ten seconds show the aircraft only became wings level at about ten feet above the runway.


Image 2


A Google Earth presentation of the final stages of the approach conveys this more easily.



Image 3



I couldn’t resist the temptation to compare this with big jet operations. Here are comparative statistics for sixteen Boeing 737NG operators, showing the heading change below 500ft on the approach. Exceptional cases reach six or seven degrees.


Image 4

I understand that it’s not necessary to carry out full ILS-style approaches when flying a small aircraft into quiet airports, but there has to be a happy compromise that gets wings level at a more sensible height.

Safety Principles

OK, returning to small aircraft monitoring, the G1000 does not record all the parameters you would like to see on such a system but it does provide enough information to identify flamboyant operation of the aircraft such as the case described above. After implementing an FDM system, one of two things happens. Either the crew, aware that they are being monitored, moderate their behaviour and operate with greater caution, or the safety department are alerted to flights such as this and take action to encourage a more cautious approach to operating the aircraft. In either case the safety margins are increased and the chance of an accident reduced.

Free Trial Offer

The work we carried out to date has been on a few sample flights, and Flight Data Services would like to evaluate this system in a more extended period of operation. We planned to run trials of six months duration with two different operators. Flight Data Services will carry out all the flight data processing and analysis free of charge, in exchange for the operator providing a report on their findings at the end of the trial.

One operator, with a fleet of 4 G1000-equipped Cessna Caravans, has just agreed to participate, and we hope to start flying soon.

So here is the invitation. If anyone reading this blog operates suitable aircraft and would like to have free flight data monitoring for six months, please get in touch with us at [email protected]


Safe flying,