A few days ago we remembered the tragic disappearance of flight MH370 one year on. On Friday March 04, Singapore Civil Aviation Authority announced the establishment of new rules to improve the tracking of its aircraft.
The new rules state that position reporting must now take place at intervals of 15 minutes throughout the duration of the flight, on flights carrying more than 19 passengers.
Cargo aircraft weighing more than 45,500 kg will also fall within the scope of the new rules.
Rules will come into effect from July 01 2016, when operators will need to track aircraft by manual or automatic means. From November 2018, only automatic tracking will be acceptable under the new requirements.
Following a two-week search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370, the Malaysian Prime Minister, Najib Razak, regretfully confirmed the loss of the Boeing 777 after information provided by UK satellite company Inmarsat and the UK Air Accidents Investigation Branch (AAIB).
Inmarsat explained that CPDLC – Controller-Pilot Data Link Communications, the ACARS system onboard responded to text ‘handshakes’ send periodically via Inmarsat ground stations to the satellite network, then onto the aircraft. When an aircraft is within range, or over land, the ACARS messages are relayed over VHF radio.
Inmarsat and AAIB have been involved in the global operation to find the missing aircraft since 15th March and provided the data that enabled the investigators to indicate the likelihood of the plane taking the northern and southern corridors. Further calculations using the data provided have led to the conclusion that flight MH370 found its final resting place in the Indian Ocean.
CPDLC uses electronic data messages relayed to the ground via the satellite networks and carries information such as route instructions, clearances and NOTAMs. It was discovered that the onboard communications services had been manually shut down during the early stages of the flight. The datalink systems will however, continue to respond to the electronic handshakes while the flight is operational.
Until the flight recorder is recovered, we will never truly understand the nature of the disaster that has befallen the aircraft nor the plight of the passengers and crew.