Flight tracking system promises no repeat of MH370 disappearance

Flight tracking system promises no repeat of MH370 disappearance

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Aviation IT group Sita has confirmed 15 airlines are using a new flight-tracking system developed following the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in March last year.

Singapore AIrlines, Norwegian Air Shuttle and Royal Brunei have joined Malaysia in deploying the Sita OnAir FlightTracker, along with 11 other carriers Sita declined to identify for commercial reasons.

The FlightTracker system uses existing equipment and air traffic control data to monitor an aircraft throughout a flight.

Singapore, Norwegian and Royal Brunei will deploy the tracker on their entire fleets from this month. Malaysia Airlines already does so.

The system is capable of tracking aircraft at 15 minute intervals and less. If no information is received for 14 minutes, the system sends a request and, if no response, it issues an alert.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) has recommended aircraft be monitored every 15 minutes in light of flight MH370’s disappearance.

Many carriers still monitor aircraft on long-haul flights every 30 minutes although some, including Lufthansa, have moved to much shorter intervals than ICAO recommends

Speaking at the Sita IT conference in Brussels yesterday, Sita OnAir chief executive Ian Dawkins said: “There are already multiple links to and from aircraft that are not linked. We’ve just put them together.

“For the 90-plus airlines already using our AIRCOM FlightMessenger [communication system], we can deploy the solution in days. Currently, 14,000 aircraft are equipped with the necessary sensors.”

Dawkins added: “We can manage the communications down to one minute or whatever an airline decides. Iata sought a quick and easy solution and this can be deployed in days.”

Sita OnAir portfolio director Paul Gibson explained: “Several pieces of equipment on aircraft can be used for tracking but they need to be brought together.”

Dawkins said: “We plan to develop the capability to position aircraft within a corridor so if an aircraft deviates from that it causes an alert. We are also testing streaming black box data this month.”

The failure to find Malaysia’s MH370 and its black box means the fate of the aircraft and its passengers remains a mystery.

But even where the location of the black box is known, as in the case of the recent Germanwings disaster, it can take time to retrieve it.

Sita OnAir said it would provide tracking data free of charge to Sita members in the event of an emergency.

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