Missing Malaysian aircraft - still no trace

  john bunyan 15:05 11 Mar 2014

This is not the time to speculate on the causes of this tragedy, with so many grieving relatives in a state of shock.

However it does seem to me strange that with modern technology, aircraft are not continuously monitored . Surely some sort of tracking device could be fitted such that the airline's owner, at least, would keep track of their planes by sat- nav or whatever. I recall days of the cold war where Nimrod aircraft could track many planes across the Atlantic etc and these days of satellite surveillance I would have thought that in spite of the volume of traffic, someone could have a record of each flight. If "find my iPhone" can work, why not a similar thing on an aircraft?

I think we should wait before guessing the cause; I just wondered if our aviation experts had a view as to why it seems so difficult to track every aircraft - I think it took 2 or more years to find the Air France aircraft a couple of years ago.

  wiz-king 16:35 11 Mar 2014

Have you not heard the saying 'fell off the radar'? I admit I am also supprised that it was not tracked and identified all the way.

  john bunyan 17:18 11 Mar 2014

This article puts my question better - Why are "Black boxes" so difficult to find?

Missing Aircraft

  wiz-king 17:21 11 Mar 2014

It was tracked

  Forum Editor 17:23 11 Mar 2014

"it does seem to me strange that with modern technology, aircraft are not continuously monitored."

It is strange, because of course it could be done. Modern passenger jets have the capability to transmit a stream of data to geostationary satellites, and that could be used to pinpoint the location of any aircraft in the sky at any given moment. The truth is that airlines, and international air traffic control centres simply haven't bothered to make use of the capabilities built into their equipment. That is probably because the number of aircraft that go missing is infinitesimally small, compared to the number of flights.

Commercial aircraft are fitted with transponders that can be used to send coded emergency messages in the event of a hijacking, and as far as we know there was no such message sent from this missing aircraft. Otherwise, all commercial flights are required to make radio contact with the ground at specific intervals throughout the flight. I have no idea whether any of these time-interval contacts were made by the Malaysian aircraft.

My guess is that in the near future it will become a requirement for all commercial flights to transmit in-flight data streams. There will be talk of bandwidth issues because of the sheer volume of traffic in the world, but think about it - if your mobile phone provider can monitor the location of millions of smartphones in real time we should be able to track a few thousand airborne flights using satellite technology for virtually no cost in the context of the price of keeping a big jet in the air.

I'm quite sure Vodafone or EE would be only too happy to handle the contracts.

  john bunyan 17:32 11 Mar 2014


If that is correct, why are they also searching in the Straits of Malacca on the other side of the Malay peninsular? This has a max depth of 37 metres so a black box should be easier to locate than in the case of the Air France aircraft. You would have thought that a secondary mini box could be designed to float on impact or be automatically jettisoned at a crash point, at least it would indicate the point of impact. It just seems to me odd that this is so difficult a design problem.

  john bunyan 17:36 11 Mar 2014

Sorry. Mmy post was in preparation so I did not see FE and bjh. before posting. FE's answer is what I hope will happen, as well as my point about black boxes.

  Forum Editor 17:37 11 Mar 2014


I use FlightRadar24 a lot myself, and it's very good. It isn't an official tracking service however, and as far as I'm aware it isn't used by the airlines. FlightRadar uses information from an aircraft's auto-transponder which sends an 'ident' at regular intervals.

Once a plane descends past 30,000 feet FlightRadar will no longer track it, however.

  bremner 18:10 11 Mar 2014

The Air France wreckage was found after 5 days. It took two years to recover the black boxes from the ocean floor.

  spuds 18:58 11 Mar 2014

There is at least three websites that provide good information regarding aircraft whereabouts, plus a least two for world-wide shipping, all on a 24/7 service. All links available via Google.

Doesn't Boeing have a 24/7 engineering centre tracking and transferring data for all their aircraft regarding component information and possible failures?.

  flycatcher1 19:37 11 Mar 2014

FE With respect FlightRadar24 tracks, and displays, aircraft to touchdown.

I see that the Malaysian Military Radar plotted the aircraft turning back towards the Malacca Straits I will be surprised if the use of Military Satellites do not find out where the aircraft went.

As all electronic output from the plane was stopped maybe there was a complete power failure - unlikely....but?

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