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IATA warns against hasty adoption of black box streaming

The still unresolved disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 has led to calls that black box streaming systems be installed on commercial aircraft.

If implemented, such systems would use satellite links to continuously transmit data from the Flight Data Recorder and Cockpit Voice Recorder to secure servers. Accident investigators will no longer require the physical presence of the two devices popularly referred to as “black box”.

However, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has warned against hastily adopting black box streaming systems.

“In our eagerness to move this along, we must also ensure that prudent decisions are made in line with global standards,” said Tony Tyler, Director-General of IATA, “this is not the time for hastily prepared sales pitches or regional solutions.”

Tyler also committed IATA to facilitate a unified industry position on global tracking of aircraft and called on governments to make more effective use of passenger data.

“Accidents are rare, but the current search for MH370 is a reminder that we can never be complacent on safety. It may well be a long time before we know exactly what happened on that flight but it is already clear that we must never let another aircraft go missing in this way. It is equally clear that governments must make better use of the passenger data that they mandate airlines to provide,” said Tyler.

Tyler was speaking at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, while opening the 2014 IATA Ops Conference. The conference is IATA’s main vehicle to interact with member airlines, regulatory agencies and the aviation industry on issues related to safety, operations and infrastructure. It began on Monday 31 March and closes today.

The IATA chief is discouraging speculation regarding Flight MH370. “Speculation will not make flying any safer. We should not jump to any conclusions on probable cause before the investigation into MH370 closes,” he said.

On the tracking of aircraft, Tyler said that IATA will convene an expert task force that will include ICAO’s participation to examine all of the options available for tracking commercial aircraft against the parameters of implementation, investment, time and complexity. The group will report its conclusions by December 2014.

Tyler also called on governments to:

  1. Harmonize passenger data collected by airlines with ICAO standard elements and eliminate all other non-standard requirements;
  2. Eliminate the collection of passenger and cargo data using paper forms; and
  3. Create a single harmonized window through which airlines can submit electronic data to governments.

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2 thoughts on “IATA warns against hasty adoption of black box streaming

  • Mark says:

    Me thinks streaming data live from black boxes would be impractical and too expensive for any carrier to implement.

    • Reporter says:

      The high costs of streaming the large amount of data generated by black boxes is the reason why this has not been done. There was a similar proposal after AF447 but the costs turned out to be prohibitive. One suggestion that seems more practical is for black boxes to transmit, via satellite links, bursts of data at regular intervals, eg, once every hour or so.