Experts state that recent proposals to improve aircraft tracking and flight data recovery may help investigators with accidents and recoveries, but there will still be challenges when flights crash and disappear.
With the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) in 2014 and the crash of Air France Flight 447 (AF447) in 2009, authorities have a clear picture of the challenges they face in locating and recovering flight recorders.
There have been several proposals to improve aircraft tracking. The international aviation community created voluntary performance standards that use existing technologies. Another industry task force proposed that airlines have automatic position reports every 15 minutes or less.
Unfortunately, many airlines face additional costs to implement these strategies. Some of these challenges include ocean surveillance and exact aircraft position. Investigators report that MH370 continued flying for several hours after it had passed outside radar coverage and onboard communications equipment operations failed.
Another challenge is coordination and communication between the air traffic control centers in oceanic areas. The two above incidents demonstrate that investigators face unique challenges in recovering and locating flight recorders due to ocean terrain and depth. These recorders are crucial to determining the causes of the accidents.
It took two years and $40 million for investigators to finally locate AF447’s flight recorders.