London-headquartered satellite operator Inmarsat will offer free aircraft tracking via its satellite network to all long-haul aircraft worldwide and propose a black-box data streaming service to prevent aircraft from going astray.
The British telecommunications firm that came into the spotlight thanks to its contribution to the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, made the announcement ahead of the aircraft tracking conference hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization that will take place in Montreal today.
“We welcome and strongly support ICAO’s decision to place the delivery of next-generation aviation safety services at the heart of the industry’s agenda at its meeting on 12th May,” said Inmarsat’s CEO Rupert Pearce. “Inmarsat has been providing global aviation safety services for over 20 years and we are confident that the proposals we have presented to ICAO and IATA represent a major contribution to enhancing aviation safety services on a global basis.”
Inmarsat said it will make its advanced tracking service, reporting the aircraft’s position as well as basic flight data, available to all 11,000 commercial passenger aircraft worldwide that are already equipped with the company’s systems. Virtually 100 per cent of the world’s long haul commercial fleet is equipped with an Inmarsat satellite terminal.
The company also proposed to establish an enhanced position reporting facility to support reduced in-flight aircraft separation, and a ‘black box in the cloud’ service, under which – on the back of certain defined trigger events (such as an unapproved course deviation) – historic and real-time flight data recorder and cockpit voice recorder information can be streamed off an aircraft to defined aviation safety recipients.
The pressure in the aviation community to introduce advanced tracking services to enable air-traffic controllers to keep an eye on aircraft even when travelling over areas out of the reach of ground-based radars has mounted since the presumed loss of MH370.
Although most long-haul planes globally are equipped with satellite terminals, enabling pilots to communicate and receive information during long-distance flights, using those advanced capabilities to provide the aircraft’s position during the flight has so far only been mandatory for airliners operating on transatlantic routes between Europe and the USA.