ITU to work on standards for flight data recorders

ITU is working on standards for future flight data recorders to facilitate transmission of flight data in real time.

Speaking at the opening of the ITU World Telecommunication Development Conference in Dubai, the Malaysian minister for communications and multimedia called upon ITU to develop standards to facilitate the transmission of flight data in real time.

This follows the tragic disappearance of Malaysian Airlines Flight MH370 on 8 March while on a routine flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing. A number of countries have joined the search for the missing aircraft and its 239 passengers and crew, currently deploying search aircraft and vessels to scour vast tracts of the southern Indian Ocean.

“I believe data from aircraft, including from the black box could be continuously transmitted and stored in datacentres on the ground,” said Ahmad Shabery Cheek, minister for communications and multimedia, Malaysia.

“I urge ITU to work with industry to develop a better way to constantly monitor flight data and what is happening in the cockpit. With the advancements in ICT today, we should be able to retrieve and analyse this data without necessarily locating the black box. I believe that this simple change may have brought a different outcome today,” added Cheek.

“We must ensure that aircraft can be tracked in real time so that such an unprecedented and tragic incident does not occur again. ITU is committed to work on the standards that will take advantage of big data and state-of-the-art cloud computing,” said Hamadoun I Toure, secretary general, ITU.

All commercial airlines and corporate aircraft are required to install and use ‘black boxes’ to track a number of flight parameters. The flight data recorder (FDR) is designed to record the operating data from an aircraft’s systems, including pressure altitude, airspeed, vertical acceleration, magnetic heading and position of control systems.

Cockpit Voice Recorders, or CVRs, record what the crew say and monitor any sounds that occur within the cockpit. These monitoring equipment provide investigators with vital clues about the cause of an accident.

“ITU will invite avionics and aircraft manufacturers along with satellite operators and airlines to work on new standards to track aircraft in real time,” said Malcolm Johnson, director, ITU’s Standardization Bureau.

“We share the anxiety expressed by Minister Ahmad Shabery Cheek and will take steps to urgently address this situation,” added Johnson.

“Inmarsat would be happy to work with ITU to develop a global solution to the challenge of tracking commercial aircraft,” said Chris McLaughlin, senior vice president, external affairs, Inmarsat.

“We recognize that this will require developing expertise in the interest of passengers and operators to further increase safety in the air,” added McLaughlin.

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