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An Introduction to Flight Data Readouts: Why FDR, CVR, and DLR Reports Matter to Your Organization

What are Flight Data Readouts?

At least once a year, aircraft fleets and carriers must conduct periodic maintenance readouts on their flight recorder systems. For some operators, this annual service is a routine part of managing their flight data systems. For others, flight data analysis is a process done constantly to ensure the utmost safety. But in all cases, this information is provided via a flight data readout service.

An example of a flight data readout.
Figure 1. An example of a flight data readout.

What flight data is acquired and shared in a readout service?

What fight data is acquired and shared in a readout? The simple answer is a collection of crucial performance information from an aircraft’s flight. Information such as altitude, voice communication, messages sent to air traffic control, and more can be analyzed through flight data readouts. This information provides a holistic picture of aircraft operations and enables informed decisions regarding aircraft safety and function.

It can provide insight into the aircraft’s engine health, decisions made during flight, or reasons for an accident. Thus, these system readouts are incredibly valuable as they inform various aspects of fixed-wing and rotary-wing aircraft operation. A quality readout service provides everything from incident reports to insights into annual serviceability in a system readout.

This information is essential to an aircraft or fleet’s ability to function safely and successfully. But in a flight data ecosystem, more than one form of data is acquired. To fully understand flight data readouts, it is crucial to understand the different flight data recorders used.

The flight data ecosystem.
Figure 2. An example of the flight data ecosystem. Readouts are just one part of a flight data system.

What flight data can be recorded?

Accurate flight data readouts are crucial in ensuring aircraft safety, but they are only one part of the flight data ecosystem. Since flight data readouts reflect data, it is essential to know the different recorders and the data they collect.

There are three different types of recorders used in a flight data system:

  1. Flight Data Recorders (FDR)
  2. Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR)
  3. Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders (CVFDR)

Flight Data Recorders (FDR)

Flight Data Recorders (FDR) have played a crucial role in aviation safety since their introduction. Conceived to understand the causes of accidents and improve flight safety, FDRs quickly gained recognition and acceptance. These ruggedized avionics provide flight parameters such as altitude, airspeed, vertical acceleration, heading, vertical and horizontal position, engine parameters, and control surface positions.

Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR)

Cockpit Voice Recorders (CVR) feature solid-state memory and share any audio captured in the cockpit. This information can help ascertain the dynamics between pilots, air traffic controllers, and other crew. It also provides insights into how they coordinate tasks, exchange critical information, and collaborate in decision-making processes.

Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorders (CVFDR)

The Cockpit Voice and Flight Data Recorder (CVFDR) is one recorder that collects both flight and cockpit voice information. In some cases, aircraft will combine their cockpit voice and flight data recorders into one piece of avionics hardware. These products usually tout lower size, weight, and power (SWaP) on top of being able to do the job of two pieces of hardware.

Data Link Recording (DLR)

CVFDRs and CVRs also collect another form of information known as data link messaging, which has its own analysis process. Data Link Recording (DLR) is a newer feature that captures communications between aircraft and ground-based systems. They capture anything from text messages, flight plans, weather updates, surveillance data, and operational messages.

Flight Data Systems' flight data recorder.
Figure 3. An example of a flight data and cockpit voice recorder.

From the Flight Data Recorder to the Flight Data Readout Analysis

While one can track various information via their readout service, specific procedures must be followed. Processes used for the readout services must conform with ICAO, FAA, UK CAA, and EASA regulations. While guidelines exist under these regulatory bodies, it can still be challenging to understand how this information is translated.

Our flight data readouts series will discuss the different readout services shared by each type of flight data collected. We will cover everything provided in Flight Data Systems’ flight data readouts service. Learn more about:

  1. FDR Readouts
  2. CVR Readouts
  3. DLR Readouts

About Flight Data Systems

Since 1990, Flight Data Systems (FDS) has provided services and solutions to benefit the entire flight data ecosystem. As industry-leading flight data experts, we offer a holistic flight data ecosystem from flight data acquisition, storage, download, and analysis. Our solutions are trusted by over 300 operators worldwide in military and government, business aviation, commercial airlines, and rotorcraft segments.

About Our Readouts Service

Our readouts service provides 3500+ readouts yearly and touts over 440 fixed-wing and rotorcraft aircraft databases. Our full-service flight data analysis solution offers superior support and service and a 5-day turn-around time (TAT). Build the foundation of your flight data safety analysis program on our high-quality readout services.

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