April 19 Malaysia Airlines has signed up to a
new system to track its planes minute-by-minute, three years
after the unexplained disappearance of one of its aircraft
carrying 239 people, the providers of the satellite-based system
said in a statement.
Flight MH370 went missing on its way from Kuala Lumpur to
Beijing in March 2014. Australia, Malaysia, and China called off
a two-year underwater search for the aircraft in January.
The new space-based tracking system, due to be operational
from 2018, was developed by U.S.-based Aireon, which is working
with FlightAware on plane tracking. It will be delivered to
Malaysia Airlines by Sitaonair, which provides connectivity
products to airlines and works with FlightAware on tracking.
Instead of sending tracking signals to ground stations -
which means planes' locations can be lost over oceans or remote
areas - the new system will beam them to satellites providing
global coverage. It uses existing data from planes and so does
not require any modifications to aircraft.
"Real-time, global flight tracking, anywhere on the planet
will further its safety goals, by allowing Malaysia Airlines to
track its aircraft anytime, anywhere," Aireon Chief Executive
Officer Don Thoma said in a statement.
After the disappearance of MH370, regulators and airlines
were criticised for responding too slowly to French tracking
recommendations after the crash of an Air France plane in 2009.
The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) in
response set out plans to impose a 15-minute standard for normal
flight tracking, or more frequently in case of emergency, by
Aireon is placing its data receivers on Iridium
satellites. The first 10 of a planned 66 low-earth orbit
satellites were sent up in January 2017.
The space-based system was initially conceived to help air
traffic controllers route planes more efficiently, thus helping
to reduce fuel costs and improve safety.
Aireon and FlightAware signed up Qatar Airways as the launch
customer for their GlobalBeacon tracking service in September.
Malaysia Airlines is the first Sitaonair customer to sign up to
Daniel Baker, CEO of FlightAware, told Reuters that Qatar
and Malaysia will begin receiving data for testing this summer
and will be able to use it globally next summer.
(Reporting by Victoria Bryan in Berlin; Editing by Elaine