In the wake of Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 going missing, airlines have considered various solutions for tracking aircraft. So far, the solution that's most popular is from SITA OnAir.
Today SITA OnAir, the aviation IT provider, said it had signed up Malaysia Airlines, Singapore Airlines, Royal Jordanian, and Norwegian to its Aircom FlightTracker product. Another 11 airlines will be announced soon.
One appeal of Aircom FlightTracker is that if you're one of the 90 carriers whose 40,000 airplanes use SITA OnAir's AIRCOM FlightMessenger, a communications tool, you can add the new tracking tool within in a few days without installing new equipment in the planes.
The technology complies with industry requirements. Both the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) have been working on a flight tracking performance standard of having a sense of where a plane is every 15 minutes, which SITA OnAir's tool complies with in its current draft.
Aircom FlightTracker is described as "a ground-based software upgrade" that "allows airlines to follow aircraft positions and identify any unexpected deviations or gaps in position reports."
It uses multiple sources of data, such as Inmarsat and Iridium satellites, FANS data link avionics, and VHF, and it can "guarantee tracking intervals of as little as every minute." Its data can be intergrated into air traffic control data if an airline decides to do so.
One major drawback: Like today's GPS technology, Aircom FlightTracker can be turned off by a pilot. Such a pilot action would automatically alert the airline, but everyone would still be in the dark about the plane's positioning.
SITA OnAir is also working on a system that would allow airlines to remotely stream the contents of the black box flight recorders on aircraft.