Separation at FL350 (35,000 feet) is a minimum of 1,000 feet vertical.
I should have clarified my earlier comments. What I meant was no ATC involvement would be needed if the airplane had an imminent issue where time was of the essence. This is a particularly poor area to fly through. No radar coverage, inter-tropical convergence zone, not a lot of other traffic to "help" you.
On Rush Limbaugh today, a pilot who flies this model Airbus speculated that the airplane lost both comm and radar and had to pick their way through the storms blind, and possibly went right to the heart of the beast instead of avoiding it.
That's what puzzled me. It would look like with these sophisticated systems the GPS data would have been sent. I know very little about it though. It just doesn't make a lot of sense that we can send a Space Shuttle to fix a satellite, and we can't find a downed plane on earth.
I guess they have found it, but it's just really, really strange that no mayday went out. I guess if all electrical systems went out then they couldn't have issued a mayday. But I always thought there were backups for everything on board. I know a lot of pilots don't like the airbus because they say it does too much on its own, but I thought after the Paris airshow crash that they had put manual overrides in place. This sounds way more than pilot error, but it could be just that. The Luftansa jet flew approximately the same path and said there wasn't any significant problems. So either the plane malfunctioned, something was planted on board, or some horrible pilot error. My heart and prayers go out to the families.
It is amazing that when a person using On-star (Ithink that is what it is called) has a car wreck, the onboard computer calls in via satellite. The On Star people then return the call and send help to the gps location. Looks like a plane needs to have On Star!!
Well, OnStar isn't worldwide in coverage but the technology is there. They'd have to have a lot of satellites to cover the whole planet and then you have to equip all the ATC centers. It probably comes down to a cost-benefit analysis. We're making a big deal out of this event, and yes it is terrible, but this type of accident is exceedingly rare. The cost of maintaining a new tracking system would be passed on to the passengers.
As for the OnStar thing - I was surprised to see large areas of Texas, Wyoming, and Kentucky are dead zones for it. Look here
I wonder if those OnStar dead zones are due to military installations?
I just read up on it. It is because of CDMA cellular coverage. OnStar uses Verizon primarily and Bell Mobility in Canada. I guess the dead zones are where either there is no CDMA or OnStar has no contracts with the cell providers for those areas.
There is no active satellite action happening when an OnStar alert happens. It is all done by CDMA cellular signals. The onboard computer collects data, including getting a GPS reading, and then sends a cellular message to one of the OnStar call centers.
I don't know if I believe that she shook apart in flight. They design those aircraft with a whole lot of tolerance for the flight envelope. I pray they can find the voice recorders. Without those, everything else is just speculation.