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Title: The application of digital flight and event data recorders to improving helicopter flight safety
Author: Barclay, Alan Laverton
ISNI:       0000 0004 5360 4502
Awarding Body: University of Aberdeen
Current Institution: University of Aberdeen
Date of Award: 2014
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The current state of international civilian (General Aviation) helicopter flight safety was perceived to be poor and without focus on the potential application of low-cost digital data acquisition devices to increase the quantity of flight data available for analysis, which could help identify issues leading to common incident and accident scenarios. The research project undertook a review of some of the common incident and accident scenarios, performed an analysis of the composition of the worldwide helicopter fleet and explored the interaction of operators, pilots, missions, and national aviation authorities, in order to understand and define the context for this study. Two radically different types of digital flight and event data recorders were then developed, which were considered appropriate for use in the most common small to medium sized helicopter types identified, in order to determine if reliable low-cost digital data acquisition was achievable. Also developed were software tools for extracting the recorded data sets and their processing/analysis. The proof of concept devices were flight tested, in a variety of environments by a number of helicopter operators and manufacturers in Europe and North America, in order to determine whether such simple devices actually returned useful flight data and in doing so contribute to improving flight safety by highlighting the occurrence of common issues. During the flight trials a number of real safety critical events were captured or observed, despite being flown for only a fraction of the time that would statistically elapse between incidents. Examination of the data sets revealed an abundance of information about pilot behaviour, which it will be argued substantiates the widely held belief that most accidents are caused by pilot error or negligence. It will be asserted that these results demonstrate that real improvements in training and flight safety can be achieved through the wide spread use of such proof of concept devices and their associated software tools. The international helicopter community has subsequently expressed a strong desire for such devices to become common place in small to medium sized helicopters.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: EPSRC
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Flight recorders ; Helicopters