Print 29 comment(s) - last by drycrust3.. on Apr 17 at 3:16 PM

It will fill in the spots radar can't reach

After a recent missing Malaysian Airlines flight, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has decided to mandate GPS-based aircraft tracking on planes. 

According to 9 News, the FAA will require that all planes have a GPS tracking system called Automatic Dependent Surveillance Broadcast (ADS-B) radio network by 2020. 

ADS-B allows controllers to monitor an aircraft using GPS satellite tracking instead of current ground-based radar. The problem with radar is that it doesn't cover some spots around the world, and ADS-B will make sure those particular spots are accounted for (as well as everywhere else around the globe). 

Currently, only 100 of the 230 air traffic facilities across the country use ADS-B. But by 2020, all will be onboard. The U.S. already has the ground stations in place for their use, so now it's just a matter of equipping planes with the system. 

In addition to tracking planes, the new system will also provide pilots with more accurate, real time information, like weather, when in flight. 

Sources: 9 News, ADS-B Technologies

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RE: Old news.
By drycrust3 on 4/15/2014 3:48:43 PM , Rating: 2
It has relevance because we still don't know with certainty that MH370 was a hijacking. If ADS-B was mandatory now, and MH370's disappearance was the consequence of some systems problem, then it could well be the ADS-B wouldn't work either.
I'm guessing here, but my theory (and experts will assure you I know next to nothing about aircraft) is it had some sort falling voltage type of failure, where the voltage on the main electrical supply was dropping rapidly, followed by a complete failure of that electrical supply, meaning there was a cascading effect of equipment failures, e.g. RT failed early on, but flight controls still worked, followed by a complete failure, where everything connected to the main electrical supply failed. In this scenario the pilots have time to change direction to head towards a nearby airport to land there, but because the RT and RADAR transponders failed early on they are unable to call for help and the local airport RADAR isn't able to detect them, but then the main electrical supply failed completely, so the flight controls also failed, and the plane just flew on and on.
How could this have happened? Say a small fire caused by the lithium ion batteries in the cargo hold damaged the insulation on some of the the main electrical supply wiring and resulted in arcing to ground. Here, as time goes by, the heat (from the fire and arcing) gets worse, the amount of current drawn increases, pulling down more voltage on the main supply, until finally the circuit breakers trip. Under this scenario there wasn't a clean break in the main power supply, rather a transition period where there was time of low and dropping voltage on the main electrical supply before a complete failure. Under this scenario the pilots have time to start taking the right course of actions to change their heading and start heading towards the nearest safe to land airport, but then the power supply failed completely, so the plane was flying along under its own steam with no idea what to do next.
What is the lesson from MH370? The lesson here is when ADS-B becomes mandatory then it should be connected to an independent supply from the same primary electrical system as the RT, RADAR transponders, flight controls, etc, and not to the same electrical supply as one would currently have expected. The meaning is if this was mandatory now then the ADS-B would, I'm guessing here, have been connected to the same electrical supply as the RT and RADAR transponder, so we'd have less idea about where that plane is than now.
As another thought, maybe they should have a "dead man" switch on the plane, so that if the pilots are incapacitated or there is some sort of electrical failure that takes out the flight controls, then the plane will eventually take control and land itself somewhere safe.
Also, could life rafts have some sort of coloured pattern on them, e.g. a white luminous star, that lets them be seen from a satellite?

RE: Old news.
By Solandri on 4/15/2014 4:38:33 PM , Rating: 2
but then the main electrical supply failed completely, so the flight controls also failed, and the plane just flew on and on.

The flight controls don't fail in a power failure. A little propeller called a RAT (ram air turbine) pops out. The plane's forward velocity spins the prop, which runs a generator powering just a few crucial instruments and hydraulic power for the important flight control surfaces (no flaps, slats, spoilers). While the 777 is fly-by-wire, it still retains mechanical backups for the flight controls. Boeing's philosophy is that the pilots should have the ultimate say in how the airplane is controlled, so it's possible to completely turn off/fry the computers and fly with only mechanical linkages between the controls and the flight surfaces (though you still need hydraulic boost, which the RAT provides).

Also note that on AC143 and TS236, the radio continued to function despite the loss of power.

RE: Old news.
By Samus on 4/16/2014 3:12:32 AM , Rating: 2
Until MH370, I think the world (myself included) was stunned at how easily a flight can be lost. Most people seemed to be under the impression flights had been tracked via GPS or GLONASS for decades.

I'm also ok with this system increasing fees to be implemented. The extra $0.20 cents on my ticket to assure the flight will be found and my family given an answer in the event of a disaster, while also aiding flight telemetry and air traffic, is money well spent.

I really see no argument here except from people who just want to argue. MH370 is just a depressing disaster, and its outcome, whatever that will be, is going to make air travel even safer.

RE: Old news.
By chripuck on 4/16/2014 8:47:16 AM , Rating: 2
How can you be stunned?

Is it really so hard to understand that when you're a thousand miles over open water you have nowhere to transmit your GPS coordinates to?

Yes, recent advent in satellite transmission capabilites means we can now transmit these coordinates over satellite, but there are 93,000 flights per day around the globe. We'd saturate the entire satellite network with GPS coordinates alone

RE: Old news.
By typicalGeek on 4/16/2014 6:51:46 PM , Rating: 2
How would a mere 93,000 flight transmitting VERY LITTLE information "saturate the entire satellite network with GPS coordinates alone"?

Let's do some SIMPLE math shall we? Let's say each plane updates its position once a minute. That would only take a transmission (even with some error checking, ID number, handshake, etc.) of perhaps 128 bytes. If you multiply that by all those 93,000 flight you're only talking about 12 megs of data for ALL flights to be captured every minute. Do you realize that simply taking a few pictures on your ONE cell phone and sending them to grandma can use much more data than that?

Do you have ANY idea how much data is being pushed up to, for example, even ONE of the DirectTV satellites to provide subscribers access to HUNDREDS of channels, many in HD?

Very little information is needed for GPS data. Head over to and feed it some pairs of random real numbers between -89.99999 and 89.99999 (as a pair, separated by a comma). You'll be able to get to within a couple of feet of ANY point on the planet with just 20 characters or less. Note that if you randomly pick something that's not over land (better odds than over land), you may have to zoom out quite a bit to see anything but blue.

RE: Old news.
By MarksCorner on 4/17/2014 12:33:36 PM , Rating: 2
Actually, the technology and Satellite infrastructure already exists to support ADS-B overwater. Globalstar has already proposed their system for such use and has an ADS-B box ready for certification. Inmarsat is another option as could possibly be ARINC and SITA. I can see a priority of transmission being established just like with ACARS based on your location - overland, transmit to ground sites, and over remote areas, transmit to satellites.

RE: Old news.
By HoosierEngineer5 on 4/16/2014 8:20:40 AM , Rating: 2
I don't know about the MH370 flight, but all the planes I have ever flown have a magnetic compass. From the maps I have seen, it almost looks like they intentionally flew away from land, and it appears they did that for many hours.

I believe Charles Lindbergh made it clear across the Atlantic with nothing more than some charts and a compass. Back then, pilots learned to fly with much less automation.

RE: Old news.
By drycrust3 on 4/17/2014 3:16:51 PM , Rating: 2
You weren't paying attention to what I said. Essentially it was the electrical wiring was compromised. Maybe this affects the compass too.
I think it is much better to believe the pilots made the right choices, or if they made the wrong ones it was because they believed they were the right ones, than to believe this was some planned malevolent act. Sure, I could be wrong, but I would rather be wrong than to malign people who, as I see it, have been trained and dedicated the last 20 years (or whatever) of their lives to doing the right things.

“And I don't know why [Apple is] acting like it’s superior. I don't even get it. What are they trying to say?” -- Bill Gates on the Mac ads
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