Detecting abnormalities in aircraft flight data and ranking their impact on the flight

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


To the best of the author’s knowledge, this is one of the first times that a large quantity of flight data has been studied in order to improve safety.
A two phase novelty detection approach to locating abnormalities in the descent phase of aircraft flight data is presented. It has the ability to model normal time series data by analysing snapshots at chosen heights in the descent, weight individual abnormalities and quantitatively assess the overall level of abnormality of a flight during the descent. The approach expands on a recommendation by the UK Air Accident Investigation Branch to the UK Civil Aviation Authority. The first phase identifies and quantifies abnormalities at certain heights in a flight. The second phase ranks all flights to identify the most abnormal; each phase using a one class classifier. For both the first and second phases, the Support Vector Machine (SVM), the Mixture of Gaussians and the K-means one class classifiers are compared. The method is tested using a dataset containing manually labelled abnormal flights. The results show that the SVM provides the best detection rates and that the approach identifies unseen abnormalities with a high rate of accuracy. Furthermore, the method outperforms the event based approach currently in use. The feature selection tool F-score is used to identify differences between the abnormal and normal datasets. It identifies the heights where the discrimination between the two sets is largest and the aircraft parameters most responsible for these variations.

Date of Award20 Apr 2011
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Portsmouth
SupervisorDavid Brown (Supervisor)

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