Avelo Taps GE Digital Flight Data Monitoring For Safety, Sustainability

Avelo 737NG underbelly
Credit: Avelo Airlines

New U.S. carrier Avelo Airlines is using GE Digital’s flight data monitoring and processing service to help develop and validate data-driven safety and efficiency protocols in its fast-growing operation.   

Well known for spotlighting possible operational safety issues, flight operational quality assurance (FOQA) programs have broadened to support other data-driven processes, including predictive maintenance, fuel optimization, and—most recently—reducing CO2 emissions. Avelo, an all-Boeing 737 Next Generation-series operator, plans to tap its flight data and GE’s repository of algorithms to monitor and improve its operation across the board, the airline’s top safety executive said. 

“FOQA data can be used by the operational divisions and our aircraft engineers to better understand aircraft operational and aircraft health information,” Michael Quiello, Avelo VP of safety, security, and operational excellence, told Aviation Week. “With this data, Avelo can be more proactive, anticipate potential issues and build a program for enhanced aircraft reliability and trend identification.” 

The foundation of every FOQA program is operational safety. Operators use the programs to aggregate flight data and flag potential issues ranging from deviations from standard operating procedures, such as flying at the wrong altitude. to not completing checklists. The data is de-identified so trends become the focus. 

At Avelo, pilots attend “Avelo University,” where FOQA data helps shape lessons and provide real-world examples of risk and opportunities to improve.  

“The aggregate data collected by eFOQA can provide a glimpse into a real-world operation and help us shape a curriculum,” Quiello said. “Avelo pilots are fully supportive of FOQA and understand its value and the role it plays in safety and reliability.” 

GE Aviation’s suite, acquired when it purchased Austin Digital in 2012, goes beyond traditional FOQA programs. It integrates disparate data sources, such as weather, flight plans, and aircraft-specific information, into one source. This Event Management System (EMS) bridges the gap between flight operations-specific information and insights such as maintenance faults and variations between two different flights on the same route. The results give operators complete pictures of their operations and, more importantly, recommendations on how to improve specific aspects. 

“We offer our customers a high-definition movie of every flight in terms of the fidelity and the amount of data you’re getting, versus snapshots from every flight that don’t really tell you the whole story,” GE Digital Aviation Software General Manager Andrew Coleman told Aviation Week. “Everything we do starts with safety, and then we build to the benefits of sustainability, fuel conservation and predictive maintenance.” 

GE Digital counts about 400 operators with 15,000 aircraft in its eFOQA and EMS customer base, which includes business aviation companies as well as commercial carriers. While safety remains the primary driver for FOQA adoption, the popularity of using flight data monitoring to help cut emissions is rapidly gaining ground, Coleman said. The strategy is not new to GE Digital, however. It has been developing analytics tools focused on sustainability for years, with Qantas’s FlightPulse project as one example

While Avelo is new, its leadership has significant experience with FOQA programs—part of the reason the airline launched with one in place. 

“Building a program from the start, especially under a very experienced team, allows Avelo to construct a program with a very strong foundation that allows for company growth and capability expansion,” said Quiello, a former line pilot who held senior safety roles with United Airlines and Delta Air Lines before joining the startup. “We have visibility into the things that have gone right in the past, allowing us to be proactive versus reactive when building the program.” 

Avelo launched operations out of California’s Hollywood-Burbank Airport (BUR) in April and is planning to start service out of an East Coast base, Connecticut’s Tweed New Haven Airport (HVN), in the coming months. Its eFOQA program will evolve as well. 

The airline is currently offloading data manually from quick access recorders but plans to automate the process. 

“We are in discussions to further evolve and automate this process to send the data directly to eFOQA,” Quiello said. 

Sean Broderick

Senior Air Transport & Safety Editor Sean Broderick covers aviation safety, MRO, and the airline business from Aviation Week Network's Washington, D.C. office.