Since the disappearance of Malaysia flight MH370, questions have been asked about the ability of radar to track aircraft worldwide. We know the technology exists, so how is it possible to ‘lose’ an aircraft to such an extent.
According to NZ Airways, who are responsible for the country’s 30 million square kilometres of airspace, a mere 60% of flights were tracked using satellite. Head of Auckland operations, Tim Boyle said, “It’s either radio or via what we call data link… through satellites.”
‘If data link updates were missed, and the aircraft remained out of radio contact, then Airways would have no way of knowing where the aircraft was’, he added.
The only route that has data link satellite mandates in place is within the North Atlantic route, according to Inmarsat senior vice-president of external affairs, Chris McLaughlin. It was an Inmarsat network that picked up data ‘handshakes’ from the missing Boeing 777 for up to five hours after it had left Malaysian airspace.
Black spots exist across the globe, for airlines that choose not to ‘opt into’ a contract for data-link systems. Neither Australia or New Zealand have any mandatory regulations to specify position reporting and it is thought that many aircraft are flying for long hours without reporting their positions.