torsdag 2 juni 2016

En stelbent industri, kassa myndigheter

Tidigare ägde jag aktier i ett kanadensiskt teknikföretag som kort och gott utvecklat teknik för överföring av information i flygplans svarta boxar kontinuerligt till satellit om vissa villkor uppfylldes, såsom att planet snabbt tappar höjd. Tekniken fungerar alldeles utmärkt, är rimligt billig och används av många flygbolag också för att underlätta exakt planering då man alltid vet var planen exakt finns. Enligt uppgift något man kan spara mkt pengar på.

Nåväl, händelse efter händelse. Ingenting händer och jag har sedan länge bestämt mig för att jag inte ska vänta på myndigheter som inte agerar. Jag och säkert många med mig har läst att det faktum att vi ingen tagit på sig Egyptair katastrofen kan tyda på att nytt hemligt sätt att få ombord sprängmedel kan ha upptäckts av islamister och att man vill spränga fler plan innan man berättar.. vi vet ingenting för vi har inte Svarta boxen flera veckor efter kraschen i Medelhavet...

Detta brevet damp ner från en frustrerad VD.

Dear Shareholders and Interested Parties;

It is not acceptable in this age of ubiquitous connectivity that we remain clueless about the possible sources of problems on EgyptAir 804 that resulted in its loss. Why do we have to wait to recover the wreckage before we can begin to understand what happened on this flight? Apart from seven or so ACARS messages (the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System), we have precious little information. Was it a bomb? Is there a sequence of problems that caused the aircraft to implode?

At the time of publication of this letter, it will have been fourteen (14) days since EgyptAir Flight 804 disappeared into the Mediterranean Sea, tragically shuttling the 66 people onboard to their untimely end. The reason for the disaster is unknown and may never be fully known. Certainly, key to understanding is now completely linked to finding and securing the flight data (FDR) and cockpit voice recorders (CVR) from the sea floor and reading out the data; provided the data within those recorders is recoverable. To date, the batteries in the beacons on these recorders will have been approximately half spent, assuming they contain the 30-day battery as reported in news sources. Recovery of the “black boxes” becomes significantly more difficult once the underwater locator beacon batteries are discharged; the activity then becomes a blind search in an area reported to be the size of Connecticut at depths of 9,000 to 12,000 feet.

Now the commercial aviation community finds itself in the same situation again for the third time in seven years!

This type of search was successful in 2011; two years after AF447 crashed into the mid-Atlantic and settled into the mid-Atlantic ridge with underwater mountains relatively higher than the Himalayas and 13,000 feet under water. I applaud that effort and the resulting successful recovery of data from the flight recorders that shed light on that particular aircraft system and procedural errors with the flight. The search area was enormous; the time and energy spent was massive and cost was significant. Frankly, I am still amazed that the AF447 aircraft was ever found.

AF447 was followed with the disappearance of MH370; horrific as it was in 2014.  This aircraft disappeared after taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport on a flight to Beijing. The aircraft deviated from its flight plan and systems designed to periodically track the aircraft were somehow disabled. The aircraft and the 239 humans on board are missing; we simply do not know what happened to the flight. It is not conceivable to me in these days of connectivity how a wide-body aircraft and its precious cargo can simply vanish.  Not so astonishing is the cost expended looking for the missing aircraft. The NBC news article (Link) published on 30 May indicated that the search costs for MH370 was at $130 million USD!

So, now that we are faced with yet another commercial airliner’s disappearance, what can we say we have changed as an industry to prevent the loss of aircraft, to reduce the incredible confusion involved in these incidents and to provide more clarity for the affected families, the airlines, the air framers and the travelling public?

I say, not much.

We increased the black box’s beacon battery life from 30 days to 90 days as a result of AF447. However, this was done on an attrition basis and there are still many thousands of 30-day batteries flying that will continue to fly until supplies purchased are consumed.

Other discussions and proposals in the wake of AF447 did not find satisfactory support. Low frequency beacons were not added to the aircraft frames in order to allow the aircraft debris field “haystack” to be found so that the “needles” could be found – the CVR/FDR and their beacons.

Also evaluated, but not mandated, was triggered streaming of FDR data. This proposal recommended augmenting existing CVR/FDR devices with satellite enabled streaming of the “essential parameters” from the FDR when certain aircraft alarm conditions, acceleration or unusual aircraft attitude conditions were met. FLYHT successfully demonstrated this capability following AF447 and has commercialized this function, now in service with First Air in Canada.  FLYHT’s AFIRS remains the only system to have automated the streaming of essential parameters from the FDR.

Unfortunately, there have been zero practical commercial aircraft changes that have come about as a result of MH370 to this point. We have goals for 15-minute tracking of aircraft by 2018, established by ICAO to be accomplished in non-prescriptive means. We also have goals for aircraft in distress to be tracked in one minute intervals by 2021. This is also non-prescriptive, meaning that any number of different solutions can be used to accomplish the objective. Neither of these objectives have made their way into law.

Can we really wait until 2021 to know WHERE our commercial aircraft are? Even if we know WHERE they are, is it not equally important to know HOW they are? HOW describes the aircraft status and situation. It’s time for our commercial airliners to operate with 21st century technologies which include real-time tracking and real-time aircraft data access. FLYHT has a commercially available system that will provide these benefits while at the same time saving the aircraft operators money in their operations. We are now formulating a more aggressive strategy to communicate this message.

At FLYHT we sincerely wish peace for all of the families and friends who have had to endure the loss and uncertainty following AF447, MH370, MS804 and other commercial air transport disasters. It is certainly complicated to discuss essential changes that should be pursued at times like this; unfortunately, this appears to be the only window of time when those with the power to promote change are open to considering it.

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