Airbus Examines Live Data Streaming to End Riddle of Lost Planes

  • Cost of bandwidth is biggest hurdle, engineering chief says
  • Planemaker is also looking at self-ejecting black boxes

Airbus Group SE is exploring ways of having its commercial aircraft stream more data on a live basis in order to help with the investigation of crashes.

Real-time transmissions would leave air-accident probes less dependent on recovering aircraft flight recorders, which can be challenging to find when planes are lost over the ocean.

Airbus is speaking with airlines about available options, though the greatest challenge would be the cost of the bandwidth required for constant transmissions, Charles Champion, the company’s executive vice president for engineering, said Tuesday at a briefing in Hamburg.

Crash investigators have yet to find the wreck of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, which disappeared in 2014 after making an unscheduled turn over the Indian Ocean, making it tough for them to determine what happened to the plane.

A team aiming to find EgyptAir Flight 804, lost in the Mediterranean on May 19, has called in specialist ships and detection gear in order to locate the plane and recover its cockpit voice and flight data recorders from depths of more than 3,000 meters (9,850 feet).

Ejection Option

Airbus has also been looking at the possibility of fitting black boxes that eject from the aircraft in the event of a crash into water, allowing investigators to find them more quickly, Campion said.

The executive said such a system is technically feasible and already in use on some military planes, though regulators are concerned about the possibility of recorders being fired off inadvertently and causing damage on the ground.

Following the MH370 disappearance the airline industry began exploring the mandatory use of devices that would allow a plane’s location to permanently tracked, something live data streaming would also effectively achieve.

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