Hidden Markov Models and Flight Phase Identification


  • Rémi Perrichon Ecole Nationale de l'Aviation Civile
  • Xavier Gendre Institut de Mathématiques de Toulouse / Pathway.com
  • Thierry Klein Institut de Mathématiques de Toulouse / École Nationale de l’Aviation Civile




Flight Phase, Hidden Markov Model, FDR, Air Traffic Management, Time Series


The use of Hidden Markov Models (HMMs) in segmenting flight phases is a compelling approach with significant implications for aviation and aerospace research. It leverages the temporal sequences of flight data to delineate various phases of an aircraft’s journey, making it a valuable tool for enhancing the anal- ysis of flight performance and safety. In this work, we implement a multivariate HMM to identify 6 flight phases: taxi, takeoff, climb, cruise, approach and rollout. We reach a median global accuracy of about 97% over a sample of several thousand flights with a very low number of decoded unlikely transitions. Regarding several performance metrics, our method is competitive with existing methods in the litera- ture, such as fuzzy logic. Additionally, it provides, for each point of the flight, a probability of belonging to each phase. Even in situations where there are missing values in the data, HMMs remain effective, ensuring that no critical information is lost during the segmentation process. We show that HMMs work seamlessly with the fine granularity of Flight Data Recorder (FDR) data. HMMs offer remarkable flex- ibility and adaptability, proving particularly effective when the number or order of phases is unknown or not predetermined, as is often the case with complex flight scenarios such as helicopter flights. This adaptability is crucial for handling the diverse range of flight operations that differ from one aircraft to another. An example is given with the segmentation of an Automatic Dependent Surveillance–Broadcast (ADS-B) helicopter flight operated by the Swedish National Police.


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How to Cite

Perrichon, R., Gendre, X., & Klein, T. (2024). Hidden Markov Models and Flight Phase Identification. Journal of Open Aviation Science, 2(1). https://doi.org/10.59490/joas.2024.7269



Research article