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Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 Catastrophe Could Lead to Major Airline Safety Changes

4 comments

Flight 370 Could Spur Airline Safety Changes

The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 has left the families distraught over the lack of answers as to how an aircraft apparently disappeared and left no traces of its location.  The only potential clues are allegedly in Australia, where authorities are poring over potential debris from the aircraft.  While the disappearance of the plane, which was routed to travel from Kuala Lampur to Beijing on March 8, is tragic, it may also help to spur airline safety changes to prevent future crashes or disappearances.

Cameras, Longer-Life Batteries, Real-Time Streaming, and Satellite Uplinking Safety Upgrades

Safety experts have proffered several solutions to preventing a similar tragedy, including cameras in the cockpits to record every second of the action.  However, some pilots and their unions have expressed disapproval and an invasion of privacy about having big brother in the sky as they navigate.  The National Transportation Safety Board has for years advocated for on-board cockpit video with little success.  Unions for pilots say that having a camera on-board would affect pilots’ ability to perform.  Other safety suggestions include:

  • Longer battery life on locator beacons: locator beacons on flight recorders help to locate lost aircraft.  Unfortunately, two weeks have already passed since the disappearance of Flight 370, meaning half of the battery life on the locator beacon is gone.  Although the data on the device is not destroyed after the battery dies, it makes it excruciatingly difficult to locate the device when the battery dies.  Extending the battery life on locator beacons would prevent this problem, but this is still in the process of becoming a reality.
  • Uplinking Information from Plane to Satellite: although planes contain computer chips to record information on a flight, this information will be destroyed if the plane lands in a body of water.  The National Transportation Safety Board has advocated uploading information retrieved from the computer chips to satellites to prevent the loss of such crucial information in the case of a plane crash.  Although it would be pricey, it could save money in the long-run as it could save millions of dollars in operations to recover onboard flight devices.  However, critics sight high costs, limited bandwidth, security concerns and privacy issues as to why this isn’t a good idea.
  • Real-time Streaming of Flight Information: others have also suggested that real-time streaming of flight information, including when something goes wrong during a flight.  Again, the main hindrance to this safety solution is cost–a typical installation would cost $100,000, which most airlines could recoup in a matter of months.  However, some experts say that airlines are just too cost-sensitive and will not take lightly to even this amount of money to improve safety.

As the search for Flight 370 continues, it will be interesting to see how this tragic disaster will affect future flight safety features. Hopefully, the families of those on Flight 370 will soon receive a conclusive answer as to the location of the airplane and their loved ones.

4 Comments

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  1. dlweld says:
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    Suggestions that are way past due to be implemented! Best if the cost of the search(s) be put back to the airlines – rather than to the governments – might help focus the airlines’ cost-benefit analyses of implementing these suggestions

  2. dlweld says:
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    As for pilots not being able to function if there’s a camera in the cockpit – give me a break! Any pilot who is so self conscious or so delicate that he goes into a non-functioning tizzy when on camera – well – he shouldn’t be up there. I mean seriously.

  3. Murray says:
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    I think all aircraft should be equipped with buoys that inflate upon impact with water.
    Also, live streaming flight info is absolutely essential is today’s techno age. Passengers would not mind paying additional fees for this service if it will avoid a similar situation.
    Has anyone investigated any seismic activity in the area as a result of the tremendous force of the plane crashing into the ocean?

  4. OldPilot says:
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    The cost of Real-Time streaming is .04% of the cost of the B777 to install and $2000/month subscription fee. This provides exact real-time GPS position and a host of other ACARs time functions. Any expert who says this is too costly for the airlines is full of baloney.