[Avionics Today April 24, 2014] According to Star Navigation Systems Chairman and CEO Viraf Kapadia, the technology to improve aircraft tracking already exists today.
Star Navigation Systems, based in Canada, already has technology that enhances aircraft tracking for airlines and fleet operators using real time flight data streaming via satcom. It’s called the In-Flight Safety Monitoring System (ISMS), which is designed to fit in an aircraft's avionics bay and continuously monitor selected avionics systems on the aircraft as it flies, instantly analyze the data, and transmit that data and any incident alerts via satellite to the airline's ground-based flight operations or engineering department.
Ground based engineers can then access that data through the company's Airborne Data Services (ADS) program, delivered through a web-based Graphical User Interface (GUI) that can be accessed on laptops, smart-phones and tablets with a password.
The ISMS has been approved for both the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737 by Transport Canada, but has not garnered widespread use throughout the industry, despite the Bureau d'Enquêtes et d'Analyses (BEA) report following investigation of the Air France 447 crash in 2009 indicating that a solution similar to the ISMS could have prevented that crash because of the trend monitoring it provides, and its ability to indicate problems with certain aircraft systems, Kapadia said.
"We do something called tweets and heartbeats, tweets are sent every 5 minutes or so depending on what the airline wants to do as far as transmission, and this can say a lot of things about things that are going on in the aircraft. Heartbeats are every 5 seconds or so depending on the amount that the airline wants, latitude, longitude, height, speed angle, attack, banking, everything," said Kapadia.
"The data in the aircraft usually moves through various levels to get to a decision, whether it’s an incident dissemination, incident investigation or an accident investigation. There are as many as 15 steps in some cases, but because ours is an automated system, we cut out a lot of steps."
At the Dubai Airshow, Kapadia said the ISMS box was acquired by an undisclosed Middle Eastern airline for eight of its aircraft. He hopes to see more airlines signing up in the near future. The company is currently working with Newport News, Va.-based ICG on a solution that would combine their real-time flight data processing technology with ICG's DataLink solutions. Kapadia said he hopes the collaboration will eventually lead to a "full blown partnership," and possibly an improved ISMS solution.
Flyht Aerospace Solutions, an aviation technology company based in Calgary, also offers a real-time aircraft monitoring solution called Automated Flight Information Reporting System (AFIRS). AFIRS is currently installed on over 350 aircraft worldwide and provides automatically triggered, real-time data and live black box streaming capability in a Line Replaceable Unit (LRU). AFIRS is also capable of connecting with the majority of the aircraft's critical avionics systems.
First Air, which operates throughout the Canadian Arctic region, recently signed an agreement with Flyht to add AFIRS to 21 of the aircraft within its commercial fleet, which features a mix of Boeing 737s, 767s and ATR regional jets.
Former President and CEO of Air Canada Pierre Jeanniot released a statement on the need for airlines to adopt technologies such as Star Navigation’s ISMS and Flyht’s AFIRS systems in light of the recent incident involving a Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777-200 aircraft. Jeanniot first discussed the need for more aircraft to equip with such solutions in 2004 when he served as director general and CEO of the International Air Transportation Association (IATA), when he called the black box “obsolete.”
When asked about MH370, Jeanniot said, “The technology exists today which could precisely track an aircraft but, beyond that, a similar technology can enable the condition of an airplane and of its major systems to be instantaneously transmitted if and when required.”
“That technology can be totally cost-justified by improved punctuality, reduced delays and by enhancing an airline's operating efficiency by providing comprehensive reporting directly to the appropriate departments instantaneously, if and when required,” said Jeanniot.