GPS on a Plane
Listening to the news about the French plane that went down over the Atlantic it came to light that there are no radar stations keeping track of your location once you get a certain distance from land. I thought the routes that were flown were always pretty close to land or islands that still kept radar contact. Then what troubled me is that the aviation “expert” said that the technology we use is still WWII era type of equipments. I immediately was baffled.
I know a jet mechanic for a private firm that has four private jets. They have their own hangar and travel all over the world. This mechanic was in charge of all operations and would sometimes travel with the planes when they were going overseas. Each plane pretty much always had a mechanic in the crew, because when overseas they did not trust anyone to fix their planes. I had a chance to learn a lot about these planes thanks to my friend.
I had never been inside of a private jet, or a private hangar for that matter. It was amazing how different they were from commercial planes, the equipment, the amenities. Heck, it made me even dream of someday owning a plane. He also told me about the history of planes and how much they had changed… and how much they had not changed. He liked the subject and I was pretty receptive to learning more about planes.
My interest for planes picked up a lot after I read the Michael Crichton’s Airframe because it had to be more fiction than actual. I mean the dude did bring dinosaurs to life and oversimplified quantum physics, he could not possibly be this spot on with the air travel industry, could he?
Then the “expert” on the news added insult to injury. We have GPS in our mobile phones and cars, but most planes don’t have GPS. That is when I fell robbed by the knowledge that my friend gave me. I had assumed that airliners had better technology, or at least updated technology than a private plane. I know hindsight I should not have assumed that, but technology wise, how easy is to add GPS to a plane or even simply send off a signal that records simultaneously what the block box records?
Five years ago I would have said that the amount of data being recorded was too much, but after visiting the AMC Main Street and now knowing that terabytes of data are being moved so quickly and efficiently made me question why the air industry is not moving faster than the entertainment industry. If internet access is already being offered in some planes, why aren’t companies installing systems to have constant data communication with a plane?
I am not thinking of just after the fact studying the reasons for the crash either. My train of though is more towards being able to rescue people from the middle of the sea by knowing their exact location after a catastrophic failure.
From what is known about this crash it is possible that lightning might have been the culprit here which would have taken out the electrical system. I think that if the systems in planes were better from a technology stand point, we would not be wondering where the plane went down (or if the plane went down) like we were initially. I seriously think that technology has to be a priority for airlines, specially if they are flying over large bodies of water away from radar.