Malaysia Airlines to Track Its Planes in Real Time


Malaysia Airlines says it will soon become the first airline to use a worldwide real-time satellite tracking system on its planes.

The announcement came three years after a Malaysia Airlines plane, flight MH370, disappeared on its way from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A two-year search followed, covering an area from Southeast Asia to the coast of Africa. Neither the plane nor any of the 239 people it carried were found.

Malaysia Airlines says it plans to use a new space-based tracking system developed by the company Aireon. The system will be ready in 2018.

Current tracking systems send signals from airplanes to land-based stations. As a result, planes can be lost over the ocean, as was the case with flight MH 370.

The new system will send signals from airplanes to satellites providing global coverage. It uses existing data from planes, so it does not require any changes to aircraft.

Malaysia Airlines to Track Its Planes in Real Time

Illustration of Aireon air traffic surveillance network. (Courtesy of Aireon)

Don Thoma is head of the U.S.-based Aireon. He said in a statement, “Real-time, global flight tracking, anywhere on the planet will further its safety goals, by allowing Malaysia Airlines to track its aircraft anytime, anywhere.”

The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) plans to establish a 15-minute standard for normal flight tracking, and more frequently in case of emergency, by November 2018.

Reuters reported that Qatar and Malaysia airlines will begin receiving data for testing this summer. The report said they will be able to use it globally next summer.

I’m Jonathan Evans.

Hai Do adapted this story from Reuters news reports. Caty Weaver was the editor


Words in This Story

allow – v. to permit someone to have or do something

frequently – adv. happening often

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