Last night the French authorities confirmed the debris found on the Indian Ocean island of Reunion did indeed belong to the missing Malaysian Airlines MH370 Boeing 777, seventeen months after it tragically disappeared from radar.
In a press conference, the Malaysian Prime Minister said that he has ‘shared the pain of those who could find no comfort,’ and offered the families of the 239 passengers on board MH370 his ‘deepest sympathy and prayers.’
It is believed that the search for the flight recorder will now be shifted to include the area of the Indian Ocean where the wreckage has been found. There were reports last year from the Maldives Islands of sightings of a passenger jet flying low over the islands in the early hours of the day flight MH370 went missing.
As the ICAO official said last month, the case cannot be closed until the plane is found. Today’s news will hopefully bring the authorities a step closer to its conclusion.
A new eBook was launched earlier this month to coincide with the Paris Air Show. The new book, entitled, ‘Harnessing the Power of Aviation’s Information Age’ shares insights into the ways that the latest technology can be utilised to streamline and secure the information that flows between modern aircraft and ground-based operational departments.
The book, authored by industry experts from Rockwell Collins, addresses the future and existing opportunities for flight deck systems, connectivity and IFE and is introduced by Jeff Standerski, senior vice president of Information Management Services and Kent Statler, executive vice president and chief operating officer for Commercial Systems at Rockwell Collins.
The eBook is available and can be downloaded now. Click here for further information.
Hong Kong Airlines this week became the launch airline for the latest Rockwell Collins service that offers live credit card authorisation using WiFi over the ARINC ACARS infrastructure.
The first service of its kind in the industry is offered via an agreement with the DFASS Group, retail options providers for Duty Free luxury brands.
The introduction of the service will eliminate losses for HKA due to credit card fraudulent activity and will offer them greater scope for the provision of high value items in addition to immediate seat upgrades with the safe removal of credit card spending limits.
“In-flight credit card sales represent an important revenue stream for our airline,” said Mr. Stanley Kan at HKA. “However, without the ability to conduct live credit card authorization, we faced the risk of loss due to fraudulent transactions. Now, by validating transactions in real time, we can significantly decrease our risk.”
“Our Wi-Fi over ACARS solution allows airlines to capitalize on their existing equipment to conduct live credit card authorizations without the need to invest heavily in expensive connectivity equipment,” said Heament John Kurian, managing director, IMS Asia Pacific for Rockwell Collins. “With this cost-effective new service, we can help airline customers around the world increase security by identifying individuals involved with fraudulent credit card activity.”
ARINC Inc, acquired last year by Aeronautics giant, Rockwell Collins, developed and introduced ACARS messaging during the earliest years of commercial flight and insist that the technology is available today for real-time aircraft tracking. The debate continues in the wake of the tragic disappearance of Malaysian flight MH370, now into the fourth month with no news.
In-flight connectivity providers and satellite companies are currently competing for business with Inmarsat, the British satellite company that provided additional information about the ill-fated flight and Iridium both supporting flight deck communications and aircraft tracking solutions as they have done for years.
More than 300 airlines and 15,000 aircraft have relied upon the industry-standard ACARS and ARINC GLOBALink for mission critical transmissions. Rockwell Collins’ CEO, Kelly Ortberg said, “We may have to write some software, we may have to do some different things; upgrade the aircraft to implement this capability, but we don’t need to invest in new technology.”
With VHF datalink extending throughout Central and North America, most of Europe and Asia, Inmarsat’s satellite network providing coverage to expand VHF capability to encompass real-time data reporting and weather updates and Iridium’s network reaching the remote oceanic expanses and Polar Regions, it is clear that the technology is indeed available to bring global coverage within reach of the world’s airlines and operators.
Aviation messaging is under scrutiny at the moment, particularly by IATA and ICAO, who are working together to investigate the options for airlines in terms of global tracking to avoid another MH370 crisis at all costs.
Inmarsat, the British satellite company that suggested the new search area for flight MH370, has offered its current customers free basic aircraft tracking in light of the tragedy.
Inmarsat have 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft amongst its customers, equipped with their satellite technology and have made their offer as an immediate address to the subject of aircraft tracking that has graced many boardroom tables since the aircraft was reported missing.
“This offer responsibly, quickly and at little or no cost to the industry, addresses in part the problem brought to light by the recent tragic events around MH370,” said Inmarsat CEO, Rupert Pearce.
In addition, Inmarsat have discussed the provision of an ‘in-cloud black box’ system that would be capable of streaming historic and real-time flight data, including cockpit voice recording. The ICAO will be taking these discussions further during the meeting in Montreal this week to discuss the technological requirements for the provision of the necessary equipment to ensure that the tragic events of MH370 are not repeated.
A set of standards are expected to be released following these talks, which will be attended by more than 40 representatives of all areas of aviation, airports, ATS and airlines.
It has been announced that the aviation regulator for India has issued a mandate for airline crew to be given training on the ACARS system, following the disappearance and issues surrounding flight MH370.
ACARS delivers and receives mission critical messaging throughout the flight, unless manually deactivated. These messages may include NOTAMs, OOOI, engine information and aircraft performance figures, including air speed, issues, position and weather reporting.
Currently, the only area where ACARS coverage is mandatory is within the North-Atlantic route.
Although some Indian airlines have incorporated ACARS into their aircraft, with the largest operator, IndiGo having used ACARS from their earliest flights, several airlines do not have ACARS capability. Murmurs around the aviation industry suggest that every flight should carry the latest that technology has to offer for mission critical messaging.
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.
A key question that has been on the lips of much of the public was how missing flight MH370 could still communicate with satellites, according to the latest Inmarsat information, when reports claim that the on-board ACARS system had been disabled?
The answer to this lies in the workings of the ACARS system itself. Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) has been the industry standard data communications system since the 1970’s. Developed and introduced by ARINC Inc, ACARS gives a data link from air-to-ground, relaying critical information regarding the flight, aircraft systems and also gives the ground-based operators means to relay NOTAMs, weather data and in-flight messages to the flight deck.
If ACARS failed, or was manually disabled during the flight, how, then, did the satellite appear to receive information after this? ACARS carries satellite equipment outside the aircraft that cannot be tampered with while the plane is in flight. The internal workings of ACARS in the cockpit can be disabled with a simple manual action. This is possible because of the risk of electrical fire on the flight deck.
Although ACARS, once manually disconnected, will not relay information, the satellite equipment outside the aircraft will send and receive ‘pings’ or digital handshakes periodically to determine the status of the network.
It is these pings or handshakes that the satellite picked up. While the aircraft responded to these pings, it was clear that it had power, was likely intact and in flight, although this does not prove beyond doubt that it was not intact on the ground.
The search continues for flight MH370 and leaves many questions unanswered.
LOT Polish Airlines, long-term customer of ARINC Inc, has chosen GLOBALink ACARS data link program for the provision of essential communications for its new Boeing 787 Dreamliner. LOT Polish Airlines is the first European operator of the Dreamliner, which heralds a new design of lighter passenger jets.
“We are delighted to support our valued customer LOT Polish Airlines as they bring new benefits to their passengers through the introduction of the 787 fleet,” said Alexis Hickox, Senior Director, Aviation Solutions, at ARINC EMEA. “We believe the cost saving benefits they have received from using GLOBALink ACARS in the past will prove equally compelling in the future.”
ARINC currently provide GLOBALink ACARS data link services for reliable messaging and the new contract will seamlessly integrate the 787 data link programme into ARINC’s data link management system and with LOT’s existing fleet.
“ARINC has been providing LOT with industry leading technology for over a decade,” notes Tomasz Balcerzak, Board Member for Operations and Maintenance at LOT Polish Airlines. “We are pleased with the entire portfolio of ARINC services and look forward to many future years of working together.”
FLYHT Aerospace Solutions Ltd has announced that it has been given approval for the use of AFIRS 228 to send ACARS over Iridium messages over the ARINC network as a result of ARINC’s GLOBALink /Iridium phase 3 AQP tests.
Iridium satellite network provides global reach for messaging and has been used by FLYHT for nearly 10 years rather than traditional VHF radio. HFDL, part of ARINC’s GLOBALink, fills in the gaps as far as coverage is concerned, with 15 stations that offer truly global coverage for ACARS and other critical data messaging, including remote polar regions.
ARINC is one of only two organizations that are approved to route ACARS protocol; the industry-standard for communication of critical ground and ground-air messaging for over 50 years.
“This is a key milestone for the Company and its customers. To successfully pass the AQP testing on the first attempt is not the industry norm. We are thrilled that the certification program for FLYHT’s products is proceeding as smoothly as planned, which is the result of the highly skilled and dedicated team that FLYHT has assembled,” said Bill Tempany, President and CEO of FLYHT. “The certification of the AFIRS 228 opens an expanded market to major carriers requiring the AOI capability for FANS or CPDLC compliance for FLYHT. These approvals underpin an aggressive marketing push, which is well underway.”