Flight operational quality assurance (FOQA, pronounced PHO-QU-A), also known as flight data monitoring (FDM) or flight data analysis, is a method of capturing, analyzing and/or visualizing the data generated by an aircraft moving through the air from one point to another. Applying the information learned from this analysis helps to find new ways to improve flight safety and increase overall operational efficiency. Several airlines and air forces have initiated FOQA programs to collect, store and analyze recorded flight data. The goal is to improve the organization or unit's overall safety, increase maintenance effectiveness and reduce operational costs.
As a result of an ICAO Annex 6 mandate, all airlines are required under regional legislation to implement Flight Data Monitoring (FDM) programs. However, in the United States, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) does not yet require FOQA programs for commercial operators. The data recorded can be either pilot generated (as he or she moves the controls) or mechanically induced by related systems in the aircraft itself. "A significant barrier to wider adoption in the United States is pilot's universal lack of trust in who will see and act on the flight data once it is recorded and studied."
The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) requirement is defined in EU-OPS section 1.037.
The FAA defined FOQA in its Advisory Circular #120-82, dated April 12, 2004. The agency's Air Transportation Operations Inspector's Handbook (FAA Order 8400.10, August 9, 2006) details what a valid FOQA system contains. An excerpt from Volume 1, Chapter 5, Section 2, page 1-221 of this FAA document states: "Flight Operational Quality Assurance (FOQA) is a voluntary safety program designed to improve aviation safety through the proactive use of flight-recorded data."
In India, Directorate General Civil Aviation (DGCA) has made it mandatory for all airline operators to carry out Flight Data Analysis for flight safety. Instruction clearly states the need for a flight safety department for all scheduled operators. Non-scheduled operators are required to present a safety report on a half-yearly basis to DGCA.