Podcast: Flight-Tracking After MH370

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The notion that a $250 million, state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200ER could vanish without a trace seemed ludicrous until March 8, when Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) dropped from Malaysian radar screens in the middle of the night over the Gulf of Thailand. At first incomprehensible, the reality of loss hit home when after 30, 60, 100 days, no trace of the aircraft had been found despite a massive search, estimated to be the most expensive to date. While passengers on long-haul aircraft might have expected that air traffic control and airlines could keep tabs on modern machines the way FedEx or UPS tracks packages, the hard reality is that they do not. There are a variety of reasons, but all come across as excuses after MH370. Now IATA and ICAO are on a path to correct the situation in a logical and orderly fashion with a slate of near, mid- and long-term initiatives to make sure aircraft cannot be lost without a trace. Executive Editor Jim Mathews discussed the action with me (Aviation Week & Space Technology senior editor for Avionics and Safety) and Air Transport World senior editor, Aaron Karp. Listen and weigh in with your opinions.

For detailed background and a look at technologies that may aid airlines in the tracking endeavor, see Aviation Week's feature package on Global Tracking in August 4 issue, including the cover story: After MH370, Flight-Tracking Again Tops Airline Agenda.

Discuss this Blog Entry 12

on Aug 2, 2014

The problem with the international aviation regulatory authorities is that they are so aloof from reality that nothing practical can ever be achieved without a mutual accord, which seems an impossible task.
20 years ago, people with forethought could have devised practical solutions to an ever present threat of the mayhem which of late have been perpetrated on the commercial aviation world. Too many academics with their fingers in the pie in this age of super technology. Let those who can, get on with it!!

on Aug 2, 2014

Away the Log Buoy!

on Aug 4, 2014

Bears repreating: Somebody knows. The following countries have satellites that are capable of reading the print on a dime sitting on the ground: USA, Russia, China, India, Israel, UK, France. In the 5 plus hours MH370 continued flying, somebody in one of these countries tracked MH370 with their satellite. If the plane crashed in the ocean, at least ONE satellite would have recorded this fact, and exact location. Pay attention folks; somebody knows.

on Aug 4, 2014

Hi, not sure that I can totally agree with the statement: "the hard reality is that they do not."
My experience is that major airlines today are monitoring a huge amount of data coming out of today's 'chatty' aircraft. And I expect that someone in the OCC would notice when the data stream stopped. This data includes engine & other systems 'health monitoring' over & above the standard FANS data streams, and could even include a negative system response when an update to the BBC News feed aborted.
So for me the focus should be on why the Regulator allowed MH 'not' to subscribe to the Boeing service or require them to do it in-house if the hosted service was unsuitable.
Thanks.

on Aug 4, 2014

After about five months the complete and utter lack of MH370 debris washing ashore - ANYwhere - suggests to me that the aircraft is not, and never was, in the sea. Inmarsat themselves said this was the first time they interpolated such data - so they could have been wrong in calculating a Doppler Effect. This was also clean DIGITAL data (all zeroes and ones, no "fudging") from a fast-moving aircraft 35,000 feet in the air being sent to a moving satellite which then re-transmitted it to another moving satellite, then it was retransmitted to Inmarsat on the ground - plenty of room for error. If there were in fact 3-1/2 connections and just the distances were correct (not the directions) then that aircraft is probably not far from Taskent in Russia, waiting to be refuelled and used as a flying bomb (for Israel? Moscow? Beijing?). Somebody has the satellite resources to search this northern path, and is either not doing so or has done so and is not revealing the results.
(~ Airline Transport Pilot, 13,500 flying hours)

on Aug 4, 2014

SO with a glut of flyable airframes on the market which can be had for chump change the Russian terrorists decided instead to somehow infiltrate the MH370. They then presumably killed the crew and flew the plane to Russia where they then executed almost three hundred passengers to keep it quiet just so they could use it as a flying bomb...

Yeah makes lots of sense!

on Aug 4, 2014

Oh dear, the conspiracy theories are coming out again. The most probable cause was either a pressurisation failure or fumes in the cockpit that caused the pilots to become confused and feed some duff gen into the FMS before becoming unconscious. I have had personal experience of becoming anoxic in a jet aircraft and believe me what you do in your confused state is truly frightening. I was lucky in that the aircraft began a slow descent and I recovered as the aircraft passed through 14,000 ft. When my wing man told me what I had been doing I resolved to be more rigorous in my oxygen checks. Maybe one of the solutions to this problem is to have one of the pilots wearing an oxygen mask above 15,000 ft.

on Aug 4, 2014

FACT:

NOBODY knows what happened. And if anybody DOES know they are not telling anyone else.

In other words, since there is no known information, ALL theories are based on pure speculation (= HOT AIR), are invalid and irrelevant nonsense.

FACT:

The _ONLY_ information we have is that ** THERE IS NO INFORMATION **

on Aug 4, 2014

Rational theories about what happened to MH370 are based on the balance of probabilities and not on pure speculation. In my comment I did not say that the cause was loss of oxygen or fumes in the cockpit but based on the facts that we do have I postulated this as the most probable cause There is considerable evidence that the aircraft's last known position was off the West coast of Malaysia. What happened after that, the best information we have is from the satellite reports which seem to indicate the aircraft following a Southern track. This is consistent with the crew being confused and entering incorrect data into the FMS. There is of course the theory that the aircraft was skyjacked by an alien force from the Planet Zanussi on the orders of the CIA and is now in a secret hangar on Deigo Garcia.

on Aug 4, 2014

I'm afraid you know too much my friend, agents from Planet Zanussi that have been spreading these rumors that it was an accident will not like being exposed by you...

on Aug 4, 2014

egeorge you are absolutely right. I have taken the precaution of putting double locks on all my doors and windows. The problem with living in England is that I cannot buy a machine gun and half a dozen assault rifles to defend my loved ones. Still making clay models of Zanussians and CIA agents and sticking pins in them seems to work. A trick I learnt when I lived in New Zealand.

on Aug 5, 2014

Again:
If MH370 has gone down on land, it seems to me that it will - in time - be found.
If the aircraft hit the water, with no pilot guiding it, then it was almost surely torn apart. Would it be wise for Malaysia/Boeing/FAA to use the web to publish a visible list of “what to look for” as currents deliver floating debris to beaches around the world? With the web, we now have the ability to send graphic information to a large portion of the world. Photos of life preservers, seat cushions, etc., and the mention to be on the lookout for personal items would quickly reach people near the oceans' edge. Knowing the currents and the characteristics of the specific debris might help narrow the search area somewhat. And for the families, finding only a single piece of wreckage or a personal article could bring the beginning of closure about the fate of MH370.

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