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June 2006 edition

Tracking and analysing to sense potential problems

By John McCaskill

Somewhere in the Caribbean, a DHC8-300 accelerates down the runway, rotates and becomes airborne. At the moment its wheels leave the ground, an AFIRS unit on board the aircraft sends two small files. In less than 15 seconds these files are transmitted from the aircraft, received on the ground, reformatted into custom reports, forwarded to and received by the client and their third-party vendor, half a world away.

One of the two reports is a standard aircraft movement message that updates the operator's fleet management software alerting them to the aircraft's departure. The other is a snapshot of the engines' performance at the time of lift-off so that the aircraft's engines performance can be monitored over time.

All this is the work of the AFIRS/UpTime system by AeroMechanical Services. The AFIRS unit (Automatic Flight Information Reporting System) is a 10lb box containing an FDR (Flight Data Recorder) analyser, GPS (Global Positioning System) chip and an Iridium satellite communications modem.

The AFIRS unit is essentially a computer with one programme running on it. Every second, this programme analyses the information being recorded by the FDR and applies a set of business rules to determine what action to take when certain events are detected.

When that DHC8 in the Caribbean lifts off, the AFIRS unit senses the weight-off wheels signal. In one second, it records the date, time, latitude and longitude, and track over ground (from the GPS). In that same second, the AFIRS....

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FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd. Engine Health Monitoring, Flight Recorders, Air-to-Ground Data Links

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