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penny3333 06-01-2009 12:46 PM

I cannot understand in 2009 with all the radar/satellites/equipment we have that you can lose an aircraft. They state they don't know if it went down or where it went down. How can they not know? There has to be data on the aircraft somewhere. My heart goes out to the families of all on board.

Dave 06-01-2009 01:10 PM

I'll ask my friend the commercial pilot and report back. I know about transponders (squawking) for general aviation, but not sure about the things commercial aviation uses.

Dave 06-01-2009 01:17 PM


I cannot understand in 2009 with all the radar/satellites/equipment we have that you can lose an aircraft. They state they don't know if it went down or where it went down. How can they not know?
Answer: There is no radar coverage in oceanic airspace. Separation is provided by periodic position reports. The airplane, not the crew, apparently reported electrical problems via the satellite datalink. That was an automated report which is used by the airline's maintenance department to track issues as they develop.

penny3333 06-01-2009 01:30 PM

Then they still should be able to triangulate. They have to file a flight plan, they enter and exit air space, and are suppose to be checking in with ATC. My dad used to fly over water, they did get better pay. I wonder if that was why, no one knew where you were?

Dave 06-01-2009 01:56 PM

A missed check-in with ATC could have been the first clue that something was wrong. I don't know the time intervals they use. A lightning strike may have caused the airplane to lose it's radio initially, and then things got worse. The PIC (pilot-in-command) can deviate from the flight plan if needed - such as to avoid weather. Depending on where they are or what the immediate problem is, ATC permission may not be needed, or the PIC may have had to deviate after losing the ability to communicate with ATC. The South Atlantic is still a pretty desolate area.

The media reports are all pretty poor. Even the experienced pilots on the avsig forum are scratching their heads.

Dwayne 06-01-2009 11:16 PM

This may be a dumb question, it wouldn't be my first though. Why don't they have something like EPIRB's on aircraft like they have on ships? Or do they, and it didn't work or something?

My heart goes out to the Families of those on board as well.


macmom111 06-02-2009 04:17 AM

this is very sad, but I too wonder how do you lose an airplane. We have satalites that can tell a person what color car they drive and they can not find a downed airplane or a debris field?
I hope that it was lightening and not an act of terrorism. but it just seems to have vanished.

penny3333 06-02-2009 07:35 AM

I thought when you deviated from your flight plan, you had to let ATC know. I wonder if there were oxygen tanks in the cargo hold or if it's like the Pan Am flight that had plastic explosives in the cargo hold.

There has to be some type of Emergency Locator ability on board. If the aircraft can email, it is pretty sophisticated.

Dave 06-02-2009 07:53 AM

A retired airline Captain was on a radio show last night. This guy has over 35,000 hours. He said that while it is hard to understand, when you are flying oceanic you are "on your own". A controller called in and said ATC is more concerned with maintaining separation so airplanes don't fly into each other. One of them said something about satellites but that the technology just hasn't made it's way to civilian air - cost, dealing with a hundred different versions of the FAA, etc.

Emergency beacons don't work too well under that much water. The captain said they'd need ships with underwater reception ability.

penny3333 06-02-2009 12:09 PM

I still thought you had to contact someone to let them know you were deviating off of your course so that someone else wouldn't run into you. I know they have radar on board, but ATC has to know what planes are where to keep separation, right?

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