Today’s news concerning Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 is sad, but expected. The plane’s course and probable last location have been narrowed further by Inmarsat and the British equivalent of the NTSB using “groundbreaking maths.” This means the passengers are dead and the plane might someday be found in the vast expanse of the Southern Indian Ocean.
Like I said, sad but expected.
However, there is a new tantalizing thread being dangled today. The Guardian quotes Chris McLaughlin, an Inmarsat senior vice president.
Ships have to log in every six hours; with aircraft travelling at 500 knots they would have to log in every 15 minutes. That could be done tomorrow but the mandate is not there globally.”
The operative word is, “tomorrow.” McLaughlin seems to be verifying a piece of this puzzle I suspected right away.
Let’s say you buy a new car. Today, most come with a satellite radio. If you don’t pay for a subscription the satellite radio won’t work.
I think it’s similar with this Malaysian Airlines 777. It came equipped with terrestrial (ground based) and satellite ACARS. Malaysian Airlines didn’t buy the satellite ACARS package.
Once an hour the plane would tell Inmarsat, “Hey, I’ve got data.” Inmarsat would answer back, “You’re not a subscriber,” and the conversation would end. It was logged and noted, but assumed to be worthless.
This is why in the first days of this tragedy when satellite reception of MH 370’s signal was mentioned Malaysian officials seemed surprised. They had no idea this unused, unpurchased functionality was even in the plane.
If I understand correctly, what McLaughlin’s saying is, why isn’t this data link required to be active as a matter of course? Even if only GPS coordinates were sent it would mean a lot.
There are a few ‘big rig’ pilots who read my blog. I hope you’ll take a moment to correct me where I’m wrong.
Meanwhile, will this data spigot be turned on tomorrow for planes still flying? I hope so. I fear not.