Monday, March 10, 2014

Lost at 35000 feet

There are various analogies being drawn between Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 and Air France Flight  AF447, both mysterious over-the-water cruising altitude crashes of modern aircraft with experienced airlines.

There's one outcome of the AF 447 investigation that perhaps needs more highlighting: despite our sense of the capabilities of modern technology, the degree of uncertainty that surrounds the location of these aircraft, especially when they are transitioning through multiple air traffic controls and radios aren't working that well, as often seems to be case.

For a vivid illustration of how the system still works on guesses about where an aircraft should be and misunderstandings about which flights are being talked about, read the Search and Rescue (SAR) appendix to the French inquiry into AF447. Not only did air traffic controllers across 2000 miles have no idea where the flight was, they weren't sure who to tell to look for it.