5 years ago Malaysia Flight 370 disappeared. Can it happen again? Aireon works to make sure it can’t.
Travelers United works in many areas of aviation to protect travelers. One of the major aviation incidents was the disappearance of Malaysia Flight 370 on March 8, 2014. The puzzle of that plane’s demise is still being put together. The disaster is considered one of the greatest aviation mysteries of all time.
As the world examined the changes in aviation that took place in the wake of that disaster, it seems that little has changed. However, Travelers United has been involved in the most promising system that is being deployed to track airplanes across the planet. Our part of this effort was to survey airline passengers to see what their thoughts are about the need for this tracking.
Most of our fellow passengers think that all aircraft are tracked at all times. After all, we can follow the small airplane symbol across oceans, mountains, and deserts. What we don’t know is that tracking is only accurate to within 100 square miles, hardly reassuring.
A company called Aireon has been working to provide real-time tracking of airplanes around the globe. Amazingly, about 70 percent of the world’s airspace has no radar or other tracking systems in place for air traffic control. So, change was not easy.
Aireon is deploying a system that will be the first service that will provide up-to-the-minute tracking of aircraft around the world, even when they’re far from land or otherwise out of range of traditional radar.
The CNN interview with Don Thoma, CEO of Aireon, outlines strides that have been made to enable global tracking of aircraft so that another situation such as Malaysia 370 does not happen again.
To track aircraft, a network of 66 satellites has been launched and will soon be able to track planes. The US Federal Aviation Administration is still testing the system. However, NavCanada and Britain’s National Air Traffic Services (NATS) are presently the only air traffic control systems that have bought into the system.
The FAA is still studying how it will work, and so far, all tests have been successful. So, airline passengers in the US and across the Atlantic and Pacific will have their flights tracked by the early 2020s.
Charlie Leocha is the President of Travelers United. He has been working in Washington, DC, for the past 11 years with Congress, the Department of Transportation and industry stakeholders on travel issues. He was the first consumer representative to the Advisory Committee for Aviation Consumer Protections appointed by the Secretary of Transportation from 2012 through 2018.