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Data4Safety: Putting the data jigsaw together

by Bert Bonke, Co-chair of the Technical Board of D4S  

Over the past two years Europe’s Data4Safety programme – aimed at enhancing safety through Big Data mining – has been shaping up from the initial conceptual ideas to where we are today: a well-defined programme that is on the verge of delivering its first tangible results. So where are we today, 2 years after the first steps of D4S?

First of all, the D4S members have established a robust programme governance that assures that all members*, including ECA on behalf of the pilot community, have a voice when it comes to decisions regarding data protection and privacy issues. Together with the applicable EU and National laws this governance provides a powerful basis on which we can build the trust necessary to make this ground breaking programme successful.

Of course, the programme would not go anywhere without an extremely powerful IT setup. After a thorough tender selection process supervised by EASA, Palantir UK was selected to provide the tools necessary for data analysis and Minsait – to provide a data analysis team. 

The programme members have also agreed on a strict data governance protocol to ensure that access to the datalake itself is restricted to de-identified data and on a need to access basis only. Last but certainly not least, the D4S supervisory panel is tasked with technical IT oversight. This panel functions independently from Palantir and consists of qualified IT security experts. 

Currently the D4S team is busy setting up secure data transfer to the D4S servers that are based in Frankfurt. This location further strengthens data security thanks to the very stringent data protection laws in Germany. Several D4S member airlines are already delivering data into the system on a regular basis while others are about to do so shortly. After arrival, the data will be encrypted and fused together with other data sources such as weather and ATC (radar) data to enable for a complete, 360-degree analysis.

Meanwhile, with the help of colleagues from the ASIAS programme, the D4S equivalent in the US, the D4S members have established the first analysis objectives: the so-called use cases. These range from relatively simple metrics to complex directed studies to analyse e.g. Go-Around management and Adverse Weather phenomena. In a very simplified way, the metrics can be considered as a “supersized” FDM programme for the EU aviation community as a whole. They will provide the average performance for key safety indicators such as the number of unstable approaches. Also, the member airlines in D4S will be able to compare their own performance to the average performance of the other D4S member airlines. 

The directed studies on the other hand will serve to gain better insight in more complex safety related issues. The ultimate goal would be to create a predictive system, the famous crystal bowl. That however is something for the future. The current capabilities will already allow making the next step towards improving flight safety, based on facts rather than rumours.

* D4S partners are:

easyJet, British Airways, Iberia, Deutsche Lufthansa, Ryanair, Airbus, the Boeing Company, the European Cockpit Association (ECA), the Spanish Aviation Safety and Security Agency (AESA), Direction de la Sécurité de l'aviation civile (DSAC France), the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA), the United Kingdom Civil Aviation Authority (UK CAA), the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA)