Malaysia Airlines has increased the frequency with which its aircraft are tracked, the carrier said today, a safety enhancement spurred by the still unexplained disappearance of flight MH370 one year ago.
Since the plane went missing on March 8 of last year, Malaysia’s government has repeatedly urged the adoption of systems that provide greater tracking of aircraft to guard against a recurrence.
Global aviation authorities have agreed, and last month an international aviation summit in Montreal backed plans to require real-time tracking of any airliners that encounter distress, starting in 2016.
Malaysia Airlines’ change has involved the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS.
“We are currently upgrading our (ACARS) systems,” Malaysia Airlines said in a statement to AFP.
Beyond normal radar, ACARS is the key tracking method for airliners. It transmits digital messages on a plane’s vital signs—including abnormalities—via satellite or VHS radio.
After MH370 vanished with 239 passengers and crew aboard, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) called for ACARS reporting intervals to be narrowed to 15 minutes, from an industry standard of 30 minutes.
“Since December 2014, the (Malaysia Airlines) B777 fleet ACARS position reporting interval has been changed from the 30-minute ACARS protocol, to match the recent ICAO-mandated 15-minute reporting interval,” the statement said.
It said other aircraft in the carrier’s fleet were set at 10-minute reporting intervals.
Currently, coverage varies widely in the industry, as carriers can save money by opting for less-detailed, less-frequent transmissions.
The shorter reporting interval would not have helped prevent MH370’s disappearance, however.
Malaysia’s government has said it believes the Boeing 777’s ACARS and its transponder—which relays a plane’s position—were deliberately switched off.
That is a key reason why the plane’s fate remains unknown. It is still a mystery who or what disabled those systems.
Australia said last Sunday it was trialling with Malaysia and Indonesia a system that increases the frequency with which planes are tracked over remote oceans, also triggered by MH370.
MH370 inexplicably detoured from its Kuala Lumpur-Beijing route, heading west and south into the Indian Ocean, Malaysia says.
A year-long search in that ocean’s remote southern reaches—now focussed on high-tech sonar scanning of the seabed for debris—has found nothing.
The region in which MH370 is believed to have crashed was determined by an analysis of signals sent to a satellite by a second ACARS system that had remained on.