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Malaysia Airlines: First Major Airline To Use Satellite Technology To Track Own Fleet

19 April 2017, 12:04 pm EDT By Des Luna Tech Times
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Three years after one of the worst aviation disasters in history, Malaysia Airlines is banking on technology to prevent another one from happening.

Malaysia Airlines has inked an agreement with Aireon LLC, SITAONAIR and FlightAware LLC to use a space-based satellite technology to monitor its fleet. The technology is targeted for a 2018 completion.

On March 8, 2014, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 lost communications and disappeared in the Indian Ocean together with all 239 people onboard. The plane remains missing to this day.

Space-Based Monitoring

According to a press release by Aireon LLC, its forthcoming satellite technology will allow it to track the flight paths of any aircraft around the world, including areas over polar regions and remote oceans. Aireon is working with Iridium Communications Inc. in this new technology.

"Real-time global aircraft tracking has long been a goal of the aviation community," said Malaysia Airlines Chief Operating Officer Izham Ismail. "We are proud to be the first airline to adopt this solution."

Aireon LLC is a Virginia-based company that designs, develops and deploys space-based technology for the surveillance of global air traffic of commercial airlines based in Europe, Australia and North America. It is a subsidiary of Iridium Satellite LLC.

Most commercial airlines transmit their global position using a technology called Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, or ADS-B. It relies on a network of GPS satellites and ground stations to process data transmitted by aircrafts.

Malaysia Airlines will be the first airline to monitor its own aircrafts. All of its aircrafts will have 100 percent minute-by-minute access to Aireon's tracking data. Using this data, Malaysia Airlines's operations centers will receive real-time position updates of its fleet all over the globe.

However, as one report noted, it remains to be seen whether the satellite technology can prevent disasters like MH370 from happening again. The ill-fated aircraft suffered communications blackout; the location transmitter went dead thus rendering it invisible from the satellite network.

Malaysia Airlines: Averting Another Airline Disaster

The flag carrier of Malaysia figured in two of the worst aviation disasters in history. One is the infamous Flight MH370, which disappeared without major trace in the Indian Ocean on March 8, 2014. The aircraft was carrying 227 passengers and 12 crew onboard. The incident launched the biggest and most expensive multinational search effort in history. Several pieces of debris confirmed to be part of MH370 have been gathered, but the bulk of the aircraft remains to be found.

The other disaster is Flight MH17, where a Malaysia Airlines plane was shot down in Ukraine by insurgents on July 17, 2014; all 298 people onboard were killed.

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