| WASHINGTON, March 28
WASHINGTON, March 28 The U.S. National
Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) said on Friday it was
studying the possibility of live-streaming flight data recorders
from airliners amid calls for such technology following the
disappearance of a second airliner in five years.
Joe Kolly, director of research and engineering for the
NTSB, declined to comment on the nearly three-week search for
Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, which vanished on March 8 less
than an hour into a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing.
The mystery surrounding the disappearance of the airliner
has rekindled discussions about in-flight streaming of black box
data that could help locate missing aircraft and let authorities
launch accident investigations sooner.
Kolly said discussions about live-streaming black box data
from airliners began heating up after it took nearly two years
to recover the flight data and voice recorders from an Air
France jet that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean on a flight from
Brazil to France in 2009.
He said NTSB officials, along with other national safety
investigation bodies, groups like the International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO), equipment manufacturers and
airlines were looking at possible requirements for a system that
could stream a limited amount of flight data.
"You're looking for what is the most important information,"
he said. "If the airline industry goes to that in the future,
what would be those requirements?"
Kolly said governments were also increasingly interested in
the possibility of streaming flight data to ensure security.
"We have our staff involved in technical meetings and
discussions and working groups on just what type of data you
would need ... what are the rates at which those data need to be
transmitted," Kolly said. "And also ... what is going to trigger
the data download."
Kolly said aviation authorities are always looking at new
technologies to help improve safety.
Among companies developing such new technology is Canadian
FLYHT Aerospace Solutions, which builds a satellite- and
Internet-based system used by 40 airlines, business jet
operators and others to monitor aircraft systems, map flight
paths, and provide voice, data and text services.
FLYHT's Automated Flight Information Reporting System can
also stream black box data in emergencies, providing a possible
model for the talks under way by aviation officials.
Kolly declined to comment on the FLYHT system. "There are
technologies that can fill all sorts of gaps, and they are
constantly being assessed," he said.
Richard Hayden, a company director with FLYHT, said there
was growing interest in his company's technology, which grew out
of a development project initiated by the Canadian government in
1998, largely because it can help airlines run their fleets more
efficiently and save money on fuel.
He said the system had not caught on as well as expected
given airlines' resistance to anything that increased costs. But
he said it cost less than $100,000 to install a new system on an
airplane, and a few dollars per flight hour to receive the data.
The system is in use on 350 aircraft today, including many
that fly over remote areas such as Alaska, Canada, Africa,
Afghanistan and Russia. FLYHT also recently won a deal to
provide the system for a Chinese aircraft operator, Hayden said.
"This isn't expensive, and we don't have to build any
infrastructure since we use the Iridim satellites," Hayden said,
noting that FLYHT was also exploring opportunities to increase
its work with military operators.
He said the company's system could not replace existing
flight data or cockpit voice recorders since it was not built to
survive a crash, but the system's ability to provide data in
emergencies offered a big benefit for airlines.
(Reporting by Andrea Shalal; Editing by Sandra Maler)