On March 8, 2014 an international flight on Malaysia Airlines from Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia, to Beijing, China, MH370 made its last voice contact with air traffic controllers at 1:19 a.m over the South China sea, less than an hour after takeoff. Minutes later, controllers could not see the aircraft on the ATC radar but were able to track it through military radars as the plane deviated westward from its scheduled flight path.
Five years later after exhaustive searches of more than 46,000 square miles of ocean, endless theories of the plane’s location or crash site, and internal investigations, little is known what happened to the 227 passengers and 12 crew members, all presumed to be dead and marking the missing flight’s infamy as the second-deadliest incident involving a Boeing 777. In the aftermath of the crash and with no answers to give families, aviation technology changed as well as standards in aviation distress to make sure no plane goes missing.
Satellite-based Air Traffic Control
A new report by CNN states that this aviation mystery has changed the way people travel and track planes. Aireon developed a global air traffic surveillance system with space-based technology. In January, the company launched its eighth satellite for its Aireon space-based Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast payloads. Current air traffic control technology is a ground-based radar system, which tracks planes entering airspace, according to CNN.
Aireon’s space-based ADS-B technology enables the automatic and real-time collection of aircraft position data.
“The Aireon technology gives air traffic controllers and airlines a complete and comprehensive view of the entire sky, like never before,” Aireon stated in a release. “With this upgraded insight into the world’s flight paths, including those in remote and oceanic airspace, the entire industry will experience significant direct and indirect benefits such as, increased safety, more efficient flight routes, more accurate arrival and departure predictions, faster emergency response times, reduced aircraft separation, a decrease in CO2 emissions and more.”
The CNN report states that the system will be effective next month. CEO of Aireon Don Thoma told CNN that with this system, there will not be a place where an aircraft is not being tracked.
Currently, Aireon has built 81 Iridium NEXT satellites and have deployed 75 satellites of those satellites with nine serving as on-orbit spares and the remaining six as ground spares. The January launch marked the completion of the Iridium NEXT launch campaign to initiate the full Aireon system.
The International Civil Aviation Organization began the development of the Global Aeronautical Distress and Safety System (GADSS) in 2016, which addresses all phases of flight under all circumstances including distress. “One of the many reasons why aviation maintains a high level of safety is the willingness to learn important lessons from rare events,” states the executive summary from the GADSS concept of operations report. “The tragedies of Malaysia Airlines flight 370 and Air France flight 447 have highlighted limitations in the current air navigation system which have hampered timely identification and localization of aircraft in distress. This has significantly hindered effective search and rescue efforts and recovery operations.”
This GADSS will maintain an up‐to‐date record of the aircraft progress and, in case of a crash, forced landing or ditching, the location of survivors, the aircraft and recoverable flight data. GADSS is expected to be fully implemented in 2021. According to Forbes, GADSS is powered by a data feed from Aireon, expanding the importance of satellite-based data. GADSS will provide aircraft tracking, auto distress tracking, post-flight localization and recovery, and procedures for accidents and recovery.