The Future of Tracking Aircraft Accidents

Aviation leaders were invited by ICAO to meet last week to discuss improving airliner tracking. These conferences are mostly bureaucratic think-tanks. If you’ve ever had the pleasure, there’s a lot of podium pounding theatrics, with an expected outcome. While nobody would oppose such ideas, the bureaucrats make promises that cannot be kept.

Improved satellite tracking is a doable option. In today’s aircraft, maintenance and flight reports are transmitted regularly. A software rewriting could up the time between updates; FAA’s and aircraft manufacturer’s standards should be met; that reprogramming doesn’t interfere with normal onboard systems.

Detachable recorders are impracticable at this time for numerous reasons, e.g. the use of explosive squibs and how to deploy; a gee-whiz idea that can’t be implemented … yet.

Tamper-proof transponders are unacceptable; bureaucrats need to understand this promise is naïve. Federal Regulations dictate every piece of equipment on board the aircraft MUST be capable of being deactivated from the cockpit, no matter how small the amperage. This is a safety issue and non-negotiable at this time. It would be a safety of flight risk.

Video of the cockpit will never happen. The cockpit is the pilots’ ‘office’. To put a recorder in the flight deck poses more danger than not. Mistakes will be made when concerns of legal culpability play into a pilot’s decision making; they’ll worry that all video of their decisions will be kept on file, that any innocent choice or comment will be used by management against them – and they would be right. During the NPRM process, the pilots’ unions, aircraft manufacturers, and even some airlines would never agree.

To make idle promises doesn’t move the ball forward. If aviation organizations are serious then make suggestions that are achievable – no blank check promises. Put the people who can design real solutions at work and apply common sense. Aircraft can be made even safer, but reality must prevail.

2 thoughts on “The Future of Tracking Aircraft Accidents”

  1. Global Flight Tracking is an agenda item for the ITU’s World Radio Conference 2015 (WRC-15).

    They need RF spectrum, but doesn’t everyone?

    UAS wants more – autonomous autos want more – the wireless industry wants it all – the DoD can’t do their mission without a lot of it.

    A complication on UAS Beyond-Line-Of-Sight (BLOS) via satellite is that the satellite bandwidth sellers do not want to be involved with a safety issue – they don’t want to be sued.

    It’s all about the money.

    Isn’t is always?

    Pesky Doug, MO4415

    1. With many parties involved, maybe it is about the money. But with those who take it seriously, we’re above that and should look to do what’s right. I worked with DoD on RF tracking; it’s more than doable – it should be standard. Cameras in the cockpit? Never happen in my life time. Pilots are too powerful and, quite frankly, I don’t blame them. Who wants to be watched your entire shift by management, because you know it will be used as a management tool. Launchable recorders? People like Hall (who according to his website is a lawyer with no technical experience) have no idea what goes into that proposal as far as safety, haz materials, etc. It sounds cool, but Hall and others don’t have a technical stake in the industry, but just go with what sounds great.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *