Malaysia Airlines First to Track Fleet With Satellites

Gwen Vasquez
April 20, 2017

The innovation is expected to be operational as of the beginning of 2018.

The airline signed a deal with Aireon, SITAONAIR and FlightAware to use a network of satellites that will help it monitor its planes across even the most remote areas of the world, including the polar ice caps.

Aireon, which is launching a new satellite network with a company called Iridium Communications (irdm), expects to complete its space-based monitoring system in 2018.

Malaysia Airlines Chief Operating Officer Izham Ismail said in the release: "Real-time global aircraft tracking has always been a goal of the aviation community". Using this data, Malaysia Airlines's operations centers will receive real-time position updates of its fleet all over the globe.

"As this technology has only recently been made available in the market, we [Malaysia Airlines] took the lead and upgraded our current system with this enhanced version". When the Kuala Lumpur-Beijing flight vanished in March 2014, the transmitter signal was lost, with some suspicions it was done deliberately.

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"With access to up-to-the-minute reporting, Malaysia Airlines will know the location, heading, speed and altitude of all aircraft in its fleet, at all times, and be alerted to any exceptions", added Paul Gibson of SITAONAIR.

Most worldwide flights use technology known as ADS-B, whose signals can be tracked from the ground or space. FlightAware provides a combination of global air traffic control data, aircraft datalink information and terrestrial ADS-B data through a secure streaming data feed.

Flight MH370 which disappeared in 2014, was similarly packed with such equipment but vanished without a trace.

A number of theories have surrounded the mystery of the flight's disappearance, ranging from passenger foul play (two people boarded with stolen passports) to combustible batteries in the cargo hold, and crew involvement. The debris washed ashore at the Reunion Island in western Indian Ocean in 2015, but the main wreckage of the plane was never found. The 46,000-square-mile deep-water search for the missing flight ended in January without finding any clues about what happened to the plane.

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