Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Lesson from losses of MH370 and QZ8501

Losses of MH370 (MAS airline) and QZ8501 (Air Asia) resulted from different circumstances. However, the outcome were the same, i.e. difficulties in locating the crash site and thus, hampering the search and rescue effort. The problem should have been corrected by requiring real-time monitoring of aircraft after the loss of Air France flight 447 5 years ago (The Independent, 30 Dec 2014). If real-time (or continuous) flight monitoring is made mandatory, could we have prevented 9/11 that destroyed so many lives (inclusive of the war thereafter)?

Technology nowadays is available to do just that, real-time tracking/monitoring of aircraft. For example, A Canadian company, Flyht, sells a system to pinpoint aircrafts by triangulating communication streaming time of "automated flight information reporting system" (AFIRS) transmitted during an emergency to receiving stations. However, I'm not sure if Flyht also cater a real-time system in addition to the AFIRS (for emergencies).

Fig shows how the AFIRS radio signal is "released" upon an emergency and then radiated/transmitted to receiving stations. The time of receipt of these signals at these stations can be used to calculate/triangulate the location of the aircraft. To allow continuous monitoring of aircraft, frequent emission of "AFIRS" should be made instead of only in emergency.

UN Intl Telecomm Union Secretary-General said real-time (or continuous) monitoring/tracking of flights is needed, however Intl Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has not issued any instruction on the matter. It all boils down then to whether it is time for aviation industry to take their own initiatives to implement such system to prevent the recurrent of difficulties in locating their aircraft. Alas, without the involvement (or intervention) of ICAO, the danger of non-standardized tracking system flooding the market will cause more headache later on.

In addition, the cost for implementing and subscribing to such tracking system should be made affordable. The cost should be similar in concept to the cost of generic drug that helps eliminate debilitating/serious diseases. Without reasonable cost/price, I don't think we will see a comprehensive subscription of this much needed real-time tracking system by the aviation industry worldwide.

Just a thought.

P.S. Condolences to the victims' family.

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