FLYHT Aerospace Solutions (TSX.V:FLY) Real Time Data Systems Would Have Solved MH 370 Mystery
I recently spoke to FLYHT Aerospace Solutions (TSX.V:FLY) CEO Bill Tempany about how his company’s products, which have been available for several years, would have benefited the outcome of the search for Flight MH 370 had it been installed on the aircraft.
AUDIO Listen to the podcast interview with FLYHT CEO Bill Tempany here:
The biggest question to emerge from the disappearance of Malaysian Airways Flight MH 370 on March 8, 2014 is “How can a modern day, state-of-the-art commercial passenger jet just disappear so completely in this day and age of instantaneous and ubiquitous communication technology?
The results are stunning. The impetus to make mandatory real time satellite-dependent cockpit information transmission was established five years ago in the wake of the Air France Flight 447 disaster, during which a Airbus A330-203 with 216 passengers and 12 crew disappeared on a routine flight between Rio de Janeiro and Paris. The pilots failed to respond correctly to a malfunction with the plane’s air speed sensors.
While the plane itself was located within five days, it took two years to retrieve the aircraft’s black boxes from the ocean floor.
French air travel regulator Bureau d’Enquêtes et d’Analyses (BEA) established in its final report on the crash that all commercial airliners should be equipped with real time cockpit information communications systems such as that offered by FLYHT Aerospace Solutions.
According to a Bloomberg article entitled Flight 370’s Loss Changes Minds About Real-Time Tracking, “Another solution would be to send a constant stream of data to ground stations on the plane’s path and performance, Chris McLaughlin, a spokesman for London-based satellite provider Inmarsat Plc, said in an interview. That data would replicate at least part of the function of the so-called black box recorders, he said. This is exactly what FLYHT Aerospace’s AIFRS systems do.
Tempany says, “Our box meets all of the new rules for communicating safety services messages for the FANS initiative, the Future Air Navigation System initiative and the Controller Pilot Data Link Initiative in Europe or CPDLC.”
So FLYHT Aerospace’s technology is the solution, why is there still this problem. Why doesn’t every plane already have this equipment aboard?
According to Tempany, the problem rests with the process through which mandatory recommendations become legislated ‘must-haves’ aboard commercial aircraft.
“The industry is driven by committees and the committee members have private agendas in a lot of cases and trying to get a leg up to put their product and their company in a preferential place. And the more meetings they have, the more discussions they have, the better solution they think they are going to come up with and it just moves very, very slowly,” he says.
FLYHT’s AFIRS (Automated Flight Information Reporting System) units are used primarily at this point to provide ground crews of commercial airlines with advance information of what a plane they have has consumed and other information relevant to the condition of the aircraft. This results in shorter turnaround times and better preparation of ground crews, which in the long run, saves airline operators money.
The cost of installing one of the units on an aircraft is generally recovered within 18 months of installation, according to Tempany. The units can be programmed to report selected aircraft metrics every 10 minutes, or every hour, in short bursts of data rich satellite communications, so that the units are not actually streaming continuously in real time.
There are two ways to take advantage of the company’s FLYHTStream software, which is standard on each unit. The operator can program the unit to start recording in real time in the event of sudden changes in operational condition, such as altitude gain or loss (MH370’s sudden climb beyond its rated cruising altitude, for example), changes in pitch, direction, roll, etc. or course.
Alternatively, a crewmember in the cockpit can activate the system by pressing a button on the control panel, which tells the machine to both preserve the data from the last group of transmissions, as well as to alert the ground crew that there is a problem and the data should start being monitored immediately on the ground.
Either way, the system, when put into an emergency broadcast mode, will deliver the data surrounding the plane’s operational condition before, during, and upon termination, of any emergency conditions. Otherwise, in normal operating mode, the routine data is transmitted forward to ground crews as per the configuration of the device by its owners.
While there are a range of solutions on the market that store data independent of the traditional black boxes, none transmit robust data sets in real time, or are as mature technologically, nor robust in terms of features, than FLYHT’s systems.
DRS Technologies’ Deployable Flight Incident Recorder Set 2100 is one example. It is billed as a “combined Flight Data Recorder (FDR), Cockpit Voice Recorder(CVR) and Emergency Locator Transmitter(ELT) designed to provide instantaneous alert and accurate location/identification of a downed aircraft, assist in the speedy rescue of survivors, aid in the recovery of the aircraft, if necessary, and assure timely recovery of vital CVR/FDR data for accident investigation.”
The unit does not broadcast information in real time. DRS Technologies is a widely diversified defense systems contractor, and so unlike FLYHT Aerospace, is not exclusively focused on aviation data reporting and transmission.
As of right now, the loss of Flight MH 370 has not instigated a flood of orders for FLYHT’s systems. The airline industry is slow to react, and never in a hurry to spend money it doesn’t have to.
Despite that, on July 12, 2012 the BEA – the French Civil Aviation Safety Investigation Authority – published their final report on the June 1st 2009 accident of Air France flight AF 447 from Rio de Janeiro to Paris. In the report the BEA recommends “…that EASA and ICAO make mandatory as quickly as possible, for airplanes making public transport flights with passengers over maritime or remote areas, triggering of data transmission to facilitate localization as soon as an emergency situation is detected on board”.
At this point, FLYHT is the only aerospace company that has demonstrated the ability to fulfill the BEA’s recommendation. In 2013, it signed a total of seven contracts on 53 aircraft with customers worldwide.
Aircraft Approved for use with FLYHT systems
The list of aircraft that FLYHT’s systems are certified for is significant and growing continuously. A Supplemental Type Certificate (“STC”) is an airworthiness certification required to modify an aircraft from its original design and is issued by an aviation regulator.
FLYHT has received STC approvals for AFIRS 220 on the following aircraft:
• Airbus A319, A320, A321
• Airbus A330
• Boeing B737-200, 300, 400, 500
• Boeing B737-600, 700, 800
• Boeing B757-200
• Boeing B767-200, 300
• Bombardier DHC-8-100, 200, 300, 400
• Bombardier CRJ100, 200, 440
• Fokker F100
• Hawker Beech 750, 800XP, 850XP, 900XP • Viking Air DHC-7 (LSTC)
FLYHT has received STC approvals for AFIRS 228 on the following aircraft:
• Airbus A319, 320, 321 •ATR42,72
• Boeing B737–700, 800 • Boeing 747-200
• Boeing B767-200, 300
• Boeing B777
• Bombardier CRJ-700, 900
• Hawker Beech 750, 800XP, 850XP, 900XP
FLYHT has received provisions-only STC approvals for AFIRS 228 on the following aircraft and expects full STCs in 2014:
• McDonnell Douglas MD-81, 82, 83, 87, 88
FLYHT has STC applications in process for AFIRS 220, expected to be submitted, depending on market requirements, for the following aircraft:
• Embraer Legacy 600
FLYHT has STC applications in process for AFIRS 228, expected to be submitted, depending on market requirements, for the following aircraft:
• Boeing B737-200, 300, 400, 500 • Boeing B747-400
• Boeing B757-200
• Bombardier DHC-8-400
• Dassault Falcon 2000
While the government agencies who determine what becomes standard equipment on commercial passenger jets, the landscape, at this point, for companies that can provide real time robust flight data safely and securely is limited to just FLYHT Aerospace Solutions.
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