Airline and bizav operators in the U.S. can take advantage of upcoming overseas mandates in cockpit voice and data recorder (CVDR) duration and technology to add or increase flight data monitoring (FDM) and analysis (FDA) capability on their aircraft. Several aviation regulatory agencies—including EASA and those of India, Singapore, and Malaysia—have adopted ICAO recommendations requiring extended duration cockpit voice recorders (CVR) on certain aircraft, and manufacturers such as Florida-based L3Harris Technologies are introducing the hardware to meet mandates and provide FDM services to increase the intrinsic value of recorded flight data.
EXTENDED DURATION CVDR HARDWARE
Meeting the European Organization for Civil Aircraft Equipment (EUROCAE) ED 112A standard [referenced by FAA TSO-C123c and AC 20-186] and EASA’s Commission Regulation EU 2015/2338—which requires aircraft with a maximum takeoff weight of 59,500 pounds (mass of 27,000 kg) manufactured after Jan. 1, 2021, to contain a cockpit voice recorder (CVR) with a minimum recording duration of 25 hours—L3Harris recently introduced its SRVIVR25 series of recorders. Providing at least 25 hours of voice and/or 70 hours of flight data recording in a crash-protected orange box, the product line includes several models and variations based on functionality (from voice or data recording only to deployable CVDR solutions), aircraft wiring types, and mounting options.
“The SRVIVR25 provides airlines and business jet operators the ability to improve operations and efficiency by providing the most data available directly after the flight, or some cases, during flight,” said Steve Alwin, Vice President Engineering for Commercial Aviation Solutions. “This capability allows operators to quickly download the cockpit audio, datalink and flight performance data, giving them the ability to scrutinize and understand scenarios for standard and adverse flight events and take corrective action.”
L3Harris’ SRVIVR25 Cockpit Voice and Data Recorder (CVDR) provides the longest duration of voice and flight data ever available for operators.
Designed to provide a higher-fidelity recording by using advanced digital technology to minimize vibration and signal obstruction when coupled with the L3Harris digital cockpit area microphone, the SRVIVR25 CVR or CVDR records up to four channels of voice data to capture sound from the pilot, copilot, flight engineer (if applicable) and cockpit microphones. A multi-core processing engine within the recorder offers additional capability for data fault analysis, video input, and other future processing needs.
“Our duration times for both the CVR and FDR [flight data recorder] are much longer than required by regulations,” said Darshan Gandhi, business development manager for avionics at L3Harris Commercial Aviation. “We’re advertising 70 hours of flight data recording, but actual capacity is nearly double that. For operators who don’t return to base often, the SRVIVR25 can record and save data from several flights until they have the opportunity to download the data.”
In some aircraft configurations, the SRVIVR25 contains an integrated recorder independent power supply (RIPS) that provides up to 10 minutes of backup power to the unit if aircraft power is lost and reduces weight, wiring and cost versus external RIPS units. The SRVIVR25’s new 90-day underwater locator beacon is lithium-free, thereby removing the Class 9 Hazardous Material designation as well as meeting FAA restrictions for lithium content.
The SRVIVR25 series provides options to support new aircraft tracking and data recovery recommendations as set forth by ICAO’s Global Aeronautics Distress and Safety System (GADSS). For example, Airbus is installing the SRVIVR25 automatic deployable flight recorder (AFDR) on its long range aircraft to support the timely recovery of flight data. SRVIVR25 recorders also include processing power to support upgrades for GADSS distress tracking, which will provide aircraft position reports every 60 seconds rather than every 15 minutes.
“Once a distress situation has been determined, distress beacons can be activated; however in the future data can be streamed through satellite communication systems,” said Gandhi. “Our counterparts at the [L3Harris] flight data services business can then receive and analyze the data, potentially helping to solve the problem in flight or, if the worst should occur, facilitate rescue efforts and timely recovery of data.”
Airbus is already installing various configurations of the SRVIVR25 CVDR, CVR and/or FDR as standard equipment on the A320, A330 and A350, as well as the A220 (formerly the Bombardier CSeries). The CVR and FDR are available options on the Boeing 767, 777 and 737Max. Other OEMs with plans to install the new L3Harris recorders include Bombardier on the Global series and Embraer on its E2 series. The SRVIVR25 can also be retrofitted on existing aircraft compliant with ARINC 747/757 standards.
THE CVDR AS FDM TOOL
While ICAO Annex 13 standards restrict the use of CVR recordings to aircraft accident investigation personnel, with proper security and privacy protocols in place an extended-duration CVDR can provide excellent opportunities for FDM and analysis. L3Harris has introduced a tablet-based recorder device interface (RDI) designed for high-speed file download from SRVIVR25 recorders for both compliance and FDM uses. The ruggedized palm-sized tablet features an intuitive user interface and fast, secure data retrieval and transfer, allowing permitted safety or operations personnel to quickly download the CVDR files.
After download, the files can be sent through L3Harris’s Express Readout service to verify functionality and generate necessary documentation for global civil aviation authorities. Reports are produced in hours rather than days, and the express service eliminates the need to periodically remove the recorder from the aircraft for verification.
L3Harris’ Remote Data interface provides operators a secure, easy-to-use touch-screen tablet enabling easy and fast data removal for high-capacity recorders
Expanding nearly any CVDR’s usefulness, L3Harris’ flight data services business offers FDM and flight operations quality assurance (FOQA) services using data downloaded through either the RDI or a quick access recorder (QAR).
“We had an aircraft not in our FDM system in which a crew received indications of the left thrust reverser unlocked in flight,” said Mark Eynaud, safety manager for Malta-based aircraft charter and management company ElitAvia, an L3Harris flight data services customer for several years. “After they declared an emergency and landed in Turkey, we downloaded the data from the recorder and uploaded it to flight data services. Within hours we were able to see the parameters showing that it was an electrical indicating problem rather a mechanical problem, which saved a lot of maintenance time and expense.”
L3Harris provides two levels of data processing: automatic and reviewed. Once a customer uploads the raw data to the L3Harris cloud-based server, automatic processing populates its proprietary and customizable Polaris software for nearly immediate yet secure access by the operator. Data, including accurate recreation of flights in graphical and 3D format, is often available to view and analyze just a few minutes after upload. A report of any triggered events, such as low speed after takeoff, low-power approaches, late gear retraction, or any of thousands of standard or customized FDM events, can be automatically emailed to the appropriate safety or operations manager, and guest access can be granted to individual pilots to review their own flights for analysis or training purposes.
The second level of processing involves an L3Harris analyst who reviews the data for safety, maintenance, and/or fuel-related trends or events. Specific actionable insights are aligned to each customer’s defined standard operating procedures to enable more effective decision-making and training and to support specific maintenance needs. Customers can also work with their assigned L3Harris analyst to find trends or solve individual problems.
“A small business jet operator with perhaps one or two Gulfstreams doesn’t usually have the expertise to operate a complex FDM or FOQA system, coding events or even getting into the weeds of the graphs that we put up,” said Chris Jesse, senior manager flight data at L3Harris. “The data quickly gets complicated. As an outsource service provider, we free them up to do the flying and safety actions, and we take the data and manage the entire process. We make flight data monitoring and FOQA much more professional for the average operator.”