For the last ten years there hasn’t been a technical reason why the digital flight recorder data isn't sent in real-time to the ground (see the BBC/Equinox video “The BOX”, 2000, on the flight recorders). During this ten year interval Boeing and Aerospatiale have had the capability of implementing remote aircraft flight recording. Using a remote aircraft flight recorder, with-in a couple of seconds, you have the planes position/location, its attitude, velocity, etc. safely stored on the ground and used for flight safety, aviation security and cost reduction. This data used in real-time could have also prevented 9/11 (see http://www.safelander.com). We presently have the viable technology to securely do this. This information could be used for flight safety, aviation & national security and cost reduction to the flying public.
On June 4, 2009 the Los Angeles Times put this into their LETTERS section:
“There is no technical reason why digital flight recorder data are not sent in real-time to the ground. We have the technology to do this. Then, within a couple of seconds, we would have a plane’s position, altitude and velocity safely stored on the ground. This information could be used for flight safety, aviation security and cost reduction. We don’t know what went wrong on Flight 447, but we would sure know where the plane went down, why it went down and possibly could have saved lives.”
Getting to the crash site early may save lives, getting the DFDR can prevent recurring fatal crashes. It’s not just position that’s needed it’s all of the data sent to the recorder that is critical to ascertaining the root cause of a crash and should be available to prevent some of the crashes from occurring.
The real-time use of the data recorders will save a substantial amount of lives, make our country safer and reduce the cost of flying. Telemetering the flight data to the ground in real-time would assure that we have the data - in many crashes the flight data isn't recovered (e.g. 9/11, et al) or has errors in it since no one is looking at it, or using it in real-time to find malfunctions. Yet, this valuable digital flight recorder data (DFDR) data has been left to the autopsy mode for post mortem simulations and not utilized proactively in real-time to save lives. We got our astronauts back from the moon by ground personnel monitoring the data in real-time. It was the ground personnel that found the problem and relayed back to the capsule the safe solution that saved the astronauts lives. Yet, the real-time data has been intentionally withheld and stored on operational planes for fear of aviation industry litigation.
A year prior to 9/11 I spoke in NY at the International Aviation Safety Association meeting on preventing crashes like golfer Payne Stewart’s decompression crash. Nothing was done by the FAA or industry and we got 9/11 (hijacking is about ten percent of aviation fatalities) and the 2005, 100 fatality, Helios decompression crash. When a plane deviates from its approved flight plan we now have the ability to securely take remote control of it and land it safely at a designated airfield. We presently have remote pilot vehicles flying now utilizing secure high bandwidth communication networks (we use them for our submarines, AWACS planes, etc.) and there isn't a logical reason for not making that technology available for cargo and carrier aircraft. The cost of 9/11 alone is ten times the cost of putting in a safe system and yet nothing has intentionally been done. We would also be accruing additional annual safety and cost benefits.
When a plane decompresses there is a good possibility if we remotely bring it down in altitude to a point where there is sufficient oxygen and fly it remotely for 15 minutes the pilot and passengers may regain consciousness. At that time the control of the aircraft could be returned to the pilot if they are capable of flying the aircraft or remotely landing it to save the lives of the people who are onboard.
Billions of dollars are wasted each year on unnecessary airport runway expansion programs to reduce fatal ground incursions. These incursions wouldn’t occur if the flight data was shared so pilots and air traffic control had better visibility. But because the digital data isn’t shared automatically the pilot sees only a fraction of the information necessary to prevent a crash and the same hold for the air traffic controllers. Crashes such as Tenerife, Comair, etc. are directly caused by the lack of visibility due to not sharing the DFDR data in real-time. Thus, the real-time use of the DFDR data to prevent crashes is more important then its present autopsy mode of operation.
The real-time use of the data recorders will save a substantial amount of lives, make our country safer and reduce the cost of flying. Telemetering the flight data to the ground in real-time would assure that we have the data - in many crashes the flight data isn't recovered (e.g. 9/11, et al) or has errors in it since no one is looking at it, or using it in real-time to find malfunctions. Yet, this valuable digital flight recorder data (DFDR) data has been left to the autopsy mode for post mortem simulations and not utilized proactively in real-time to save lives.
This, Air France flight 447, is another example of horrific crashes that possibly could have been prevented and saved lives. We surely would be able to use the flight data to prevent recurring crashes of this type and to minimize the anguish of the passengers families and the cost and time of trying to recover the recorders. The data used in real-time: reduces the cost of flying; prevents recurring fatal crashes; prevents a host of fatal crashes that aren’t directly related to Air France Flight 447, and keeps our nation safe and secure.
Remote Aircraft Flight Recorder and Advisory System (RAFT) patent #5,890,079, 3/30/1999
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