On 7th October, one month after the meeting of experts held at the French national centre for space studies (CNES), it was the turn of the American National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) to organize a debate in Washington to improve the location of missing ‘planes. And not all the players in the sector are in unison on the issue.
For example, the American Civil Aviation Authority’s (FAA) priority is not to set up new systems to monitor the real-time progress of aircraft in flight. In contrast, the European Agency of Civil Aviation (EASA) will be in a position to propose new rules on the subject in a few months’ time. However, a consensus seems to be emerging which, in cases of anomalies in flight, concerns the transmission of certain data, such as position, speed and altitude of the aircraft to ground stations.
Flight recorders are another issue under debate. Airbus says they are currently working on black boxes that will eject automatically upon impact, and in marine conditions, remain on the surface; an effective way to find them quickly. During the Rio-Paris flight crash in 2009, it took two years for investigators to locate and bring the long awaited equipment back up to the surface. The European air-framer is considering the installation of these new recorders, soon, on its A380’s and A350’s, a proposal that leaves Boeing skeptical with the belief that these deployable black boxes, being no longer on the plane, would be even more difficult to locate.
As for distress beacons, the French Bureau of Enquiry and Analysis for Civil Aviation Safety (BEA) again highlighted their automatic in-flight activation, depending on certain abnormal flight parameters.
For its part, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is interested in cockpit video recorders. A measure that could take years before being effective, but which would facilitate the work of investigators after a disaster by viewing the various actions performed by the pilots prior to the seconds preceding an accident.
Clearly there are many avenues to explore. As he opened the forum, Christopher Hart, the acting NTSB chairman said : “There is a future in which we [will] know the fate of every accident flight.” What remains to be seen now, is how quickly.