By Rohit Vaid, New Delhi, March 16 IANS | 4 months ago

As the search to find the missing Malaysia Airlines aircraft continues, aviation experts say several steps like tamper-proof location systems and satellite-based tracking systems should be used to avoid such incidents in future.


"There are a number of on-board and ground-based navigation and tracking systems that are used to locate aircraft. In this case it seems that the systems have failed to pick up onboard signals," a senior official with the communications, navigation, and surveillance (CNS) arm of the state-run Airports Authority of India told IANS here.

"This might happen if the aircraft has sunk to a great depth or someone with deep technical know-how has switched off these systems."

"Making on-board systems tamper-proof will help not only to detect aircraft in case of an accident but also help as an anti-hijack measure."

The Beijing-bound Malaysia Airlines flight MH 370 with 239 passengers and crew on board mysteriously vanished about an hour after taking off from Kuala Lumpur early morning March 8. The Boeing 777-200ER was initially presumed to have crashed off the Vietnamese coast in the South China Sea.

There are several on-board systems in use in commercial passenger aircraft that relay signals using transponders to ground-based radar and tracking units.

In case of emergencies, location home-in beacons or black box signals are used to track the aircraft but they are useless if the plane has sunk.

According to the CNS official, as this might be a first of its kind incident in the commercial aviation history, new electronic systems and procedures would need to be worked on to prevent such incidents.

"It is uncertain at this time what actually happened. International organizations such as ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organization) should take a note and make it mandatory for passenger aircraft flying over oceans to have tamper-proof systems."

Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak said Saturday the communications system of the missing passenger jet was disabled just before it reached the east coast of peninsular Malaysia.

The CNS official's views are collaborated by a senior pilot flying with a leading airline in India.

"Even the black box of the aircraft relays a radio signal that can be used to locate the debris of the aircraft if an accident has happened," the official said.

"In this case, debris is generally found nearby the last position of the aircraft that has been reported by the ATC."

Interestingly, the CNS officials said that satellite-based location systems like GAGAN (GPS-aided GEO augmented navigation system) which is being developed by India can be used in providing an aircraft's location to ground- based tracking units.

"GAGAN's job is to provide GPS-based location of the aircraft to pilots, thereby saving fuel. Similar systems can provide real-time satellite based location to ground handlers," the CNS official said.

"The system like GAGAN can work in various phases of the aircraft's flight from takeoff, coursing and landing. This system then can be used to know the exact location of the aircraft even if a crash has occurred."

"This can be beneficial in averting such incidents in the future."

(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at rohit.v@ians.in)

(Posted on 16-03-2014)