Transport Airlines

Aviation Industry Pursuing Flight-Tracking Options After Malaysia Airlines Incident

Jun 03, 2014 10:00 am

Skift Take

In the wake of the Malaysia Airlines MH370 incident, the global aviation industry doesn’t have to start from scratch, but has numerous enhanced flight-tracking options in development.

— Marisa Garcia

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Laurent Errera  / Associated Press

This photo provided by Laurent Errera and taken Dec. 26, 2011, shows a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200ER taking off from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle Airport in France. This is the same aircraft that disappeared from air traffic control screens on March 8, 2014, and hasn't been found. Laurent Errera / Associated Press


In its latest update from the Global Annual Meeting in Doha, IATA confirmed that the Aircraft Tracking Task Force (ATTF) may deliver draft options for enhanced global aircraft tracking to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) as soon as September, and will present options to the industry before the end of this year.

The task force, which IATA established after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, is to develop recommendations to improve global flight tracking. IATA invited ICAO and “key stakeholders” in the aviation industry to joint the task force and held the first meeting on May 13, 2014.

Included in the ATTF are representatives from IATA, ICAO, Airlines for America, Association of Asia-Pacific Airlines, the Civil Air Navigation Services Organization, Flight Safety Foundation, International Coordinating Council of Aerospace Industries Associations, International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations, Boeing Commercial Airplanes, Airbus SAS, Bombardier Aerospace and Embraer Commercial Aviation.

The focus of the group is to identify “near-term options for global tracking of aircraft,” while assessing “products and services that exist today.”

As it turns out, aviation has numerous aircraft tracking options, and can choose from equipment long available in the market and enhancements on systems already deployed on many aircraft.

On May 11, Inmarsat announced that it will offer a free global flight tracking service to aircraft already equipped with an Inmarsat satellite connection, which it says is “virtually 100 percent of the world’s long haul commercial fleet.”

Inmarsat is also offering “enhanced reporting facility to support reduced in-flight aircraft separation,” and a “black box in the cloud” service for triggered flight data reporting to the ground, but has not revealed cost details on either of these two options.

SITA announced yesterday that it will also enter the competition to provide flight tracking by merging its airline operations center system (AIRCOM) Server, with its Future Air Navigation System (FANS) into a new flight tracker solution.

SITA states that this new methodology, once tested, will be relatively inexpensive for airlines. SITA, which is owned by the world’s airlines, says carriers airlines will still be able to take advantage of Inmarsat’s free flight tracking option along with SITA’s new service.

This combination would provide airlines with effective ground-cover and over-sea cover on aircraft equipped for both systems.

Iridium and Aireon, as a joint venture, have also offered to provide “near real-time surveillance of aircraft over the oceans and remote regions of the world.”

As Iridium tells Skift, this solution would involve placing space-qualified ADS-B on each Iridium NEXT satellite and airlines installing ADS-B equipage on their aircraft. Iridium points out that Europe already mandated this for commercial aircraft by 2015-/2017 and the U.S. airlines must have this by 2020.

Their strategy for monetizing this service is to sell flight data to Air Navigation Service Providers (ANSPs) “to enhance safety, increase operational efficiencies, reduce fuel consumption and reduce emissions all through optimized flight paths and closer spacing of aircraft.”

The companies indicate that ADS-B messages can “provide significantly more information than simple position data.” There would be no additional service charges to airlines.

FLYHT’s AFIRS and FLYHTStream services give airlines full tracking control of their aircraft, can provide triggered flight data, and facilitate air-to-ground communications. These solutions involve installing a FLYHT box on aircraft; an investment of $100,000 per airplane. FLYHT also uses Iridium’s Global Communications System.

ICAO held a meeting on global flight tracking in May in conjunction with IATA, which resulted in a consensus in the airline industry that flight-tracking is a near-term priority.

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