Can Wi-Fi Help Track Missing Planes?

Your next video will start in

Recommended Videos

  • Info

  • Comments


March 13 (Bloomberg) -- Michael Small, president and CEO of Gogo, discusses the company's international expansion, demand for Wi-fi services on airplanes and the disappearance of Malaysia Air Flight 370 with Emily Chang and Cory Johnson on Bloomberg Television's "Bloomberg West." (Source: Bloomberg)

How is it that in the 21st century, a plane can simply disappear with no trace of it on radar, no communications?

How does that actually happen?

You use the word there, radar.

Air traffic control radar is something that only exists in certain parts of the world.

There are vast stretches of the planet that are not covered by radar across the ocean, certain remote parts of asia and africa.

When an aircraft is in one of these areas, we communicate other ways, by high-frequency radio or what we call sms datalink.

There are different ways of communicating, depending on where you are exactly and depending which air traffic control facility you are working with.

It varies.

I keep being asked, why wasn't this plane being tracked?

It was.

Air crews are always in touch with air traffic control and companies on the ground, one way or the other, through any of those means i just talked about.

What seems to have happened here is all of that equipment, one way or the other failed or was shut off.

We don't know.

Without power, you cannot communicate here it -- communicate.

That is where we are.

We don't know why that happened.

Was it foul play, which is conceivable, or was it some sort of bizarre and catastrophic power failure on the aircraft?

There are reports about the plane being inside a military radar when it was not seen anymore by the air traffic control radar.

How do two kinds of radar differ?

I don't really know.

I'm the wrong person to ask about that.

And who was tracking the airplane and where -- all of that seems to be very confusing right now.

You have got different entities focused on finding the plane now . the message, getting from there and filtered through the media and finally out to the public is becoming garbled.

I don't think we really know who was watching what and where.

We are kind of confused right now.

Eventually the message will be more clear.

Not yet.

How unique is the situation?

Have you ever seen anything happen like this before?

Not exactly.

We tend to have short memories and when you go back over the history of commercial aviation and all the different accidents that have occurred over the years, there have been some strange ones.

What is important here is that people need to be ready for the possibility, not the likelihood but possibility that we just might not ever learn the whole truth about what happened.

That is kind of bold for me to put out there at this point.

They have not even found the wreckage yet, and i suspect they will.

My hunch is that we will understand at some point what happened.

But we might not.

At the very least, it's going to take some time.

People want fast and easy answers, and that is just not the way this works with air crashes.

It sometimes takes weeks or months or even longer before we really understand what happened.

Conceivably if they do find the wreckage and they do find the black box, they may get more clues.

What is your gut feeling?

It is so unusual that the plane would be flying so far off course.

Why do you think that could be?

Things were making more sense up until the point when the news came out that the plane apparently had wandered around for an hour or more, for hundreds of miles after contact was lost.

That really pushes the whole conversation literally in another direction.

And why that happened is the million-dollar question right now.

It is very unusual and it suggests to me one of two things , which i touched on earlier, which is the possibility of some hijacking or other foul play or really unusual but catastrophic power failure on the aircraft that would have shut off the radios and transponder and datalink system.

Very strange.

I don't want to say what my hunches are.

I don't like speculating on an accident when so little is known.

All we really know is that a plane wandered off course and disappeared and almost always in these cases when you start conjecturing and throwing out theories and ideas, they turn out at the end to be either very incomplete or completely wrong.

The safe thing to do is hang on.

I'm sure we will find out or i hope we will find out more in the coming hours and days.

What single piece of technology do you think is a reasonable thing that might give us more information that should be added to cockpits or whatever?

That's a great question.

Understand how rare this sort of thing is.

Is it a good idea from the airline industry's perspective to invest billions and billions of dollars in some sort of high-tech real-time failsafe tracking technology for something that happens once every 20 or 30 years?

I don't know.

You are a commercial pilot.

Our pilots trained to deal with

This text has been automatically generated. It may not be 100% accurate.


BTV Channel Finder


ZIP is required for U.S. locations

Bloomberg Television in   change