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Satellite Operator to Offer Free Real-Time Airline Tracking

Skift Take

Expect other providers to offer a challenge to Inmarsat’s product.

— Jason Clampet

Communications satellite operator Inmarsat Plc will offer free tracking to all commercial passenger jets linked to its network in response to the disappearance of Malaysian Air Flight 370 over the Indian Ocean.

The service will be available to about 11,000 planes, almost all of the world’s long-haul fleet, the London-based company said in a statement today. Inmarsat also plans to offer a “black box in the cloud” feature that will stream flight- data and cockpit-voice recorder information to safety officials if a plane does something unexpected such as deviating from its approved course.

“Because of the universal nature of existing Inmarsat aviation services, our proposals can be implemented right away on all ocean-going commercial aircraft using equipment that is already installed,” Chief Executive Officer Rupert Pearce said in the statement. “In the wake of the loss of MH370, we believe this is simply the right thing to do.”

After the March 8 disappearance of Flight MH370, Inmarsat engineers calculated two possible trajectories from the jet’s signals to its satellites and applied principles relating to the impact of movement on sound waves to determine it had headed south over the Indian Ocean.

In addition to the free tracking service, the satellite company also plans to offer an improved position reporting service, it said. The proposals were made as the International Civil Aviation Organization begins a meeting today in Montreal to discuss aircraft tracking.

Submarine Searches

The search for the Malaysian passenger jet has become the longest in modern aviation history and includes submarines to dive deep into the Indian Ocean, the suspected final resting place of the Boeing 777, which carried 239 passengers and crew. No debris has been sighted. The flight-data and voice recorders stored in the aircraft would provide the most valuable clues to the disappearance.

European Aviation Safety Agency requirements proposed last week in response to the loss would triple the transmission time of underwater locating devices to 90 days from 30. Equipment on larger jets flying overseas should also have a greater range or be more accurate, EASA said on May 6.

Once adopted by the European Commission, the rules will apply to all jets and helicopters registered in an EASA member state.

To contact the reporter on this story: Kari Lundgren in London at klundgren2@bloomberg.net. To contact the editors responsible for this story: Benedikt Kammel at bkammel@bloomberg.net.

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