In 2010, One computer expert proposed a kind of “glass box” of streaming airplane data instead of a hard-wired black box on Discovery News.
As passengers demand more in-flight Internet access, the possibility of using a satellite uplink to transmit additional aircraft data seems like a good one. But MIT’s Hansman warned that it would slow down data rates for those very same passengers.
He noted that the operation to recover the Air France data recorder cost $30 million. That’s still less than the cost of collecting satellite data from tens of thousands of aircraft circling the globe every day.
Sean Cassidy, safety coordinator for the Air Line Pilots’ Association, agreed that it’s not as easy as it sounds.
“There’s a difference between sending a maintenance report and sending a massive gob of real-time streaming data that could occupy an amazing amount of bandwith,” Cassidy said.
Cassidy, like many aviation experts, is still baffled as to what happened to the Malaysian aircraft. He said modern airplanes like the Boeing 777 that disappeared have satellite transponders that send location, speed and altitude data to the manufacturer and the airline company.
“The bigger question I have is why can’t they find the airplane,” Cassidy said.
“It could be that radar coverage wasn’t accurate or comprehensive. There are still places in the world where sometimes radar coverage is a little spotty. Those are questions that are being pored over right now.”