Black Box Data: Lost MH370 Fuels Live-Streaming Talk

Pam WrightLife

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With the fate of Malaysia flight MH370 still uncertain three weeks after the plane's disappearance, a debate has reignited over the possibility of live streaming a plane's flight data and voice recorders — known as the "black box" — during all flights.

Currently, air accident investigators have to wait for the recovery of the black box before they can reliably analyze what has happened to a plane during an accident.

Proponents of flight data-streaming suggest it is the only way to prevent a plane from becoming lost during flight. This is the second flight to disappear in five years — it took nearly two years to recover the black box of an Air France flight that plunged into the Atlantic Ocean during its 2009 flight from Rio de Janeiro to Paris.

Time is ticking for the possibility of ever finding out what happened to MH370 — the black box will stop emitting a signal after 30 days.

Oliver McGee, a former scientific adviser to former President Bill Clinton, is an avid proponent of storing crucial data in the cloud.

Joe Kolly, the director of research and engineering at the National Transportation Safety Board, said discussions have begun on how to prevent crucial flight information from being lost.

"You're looking for what is the most important information," he said. "If the airline industry goes to that in the future, what would be those requirements?” he said.

"We have our staff involved in technical meetings and discussions and working groups on just what type of data you would need.”

Kolly said governments are becoming more interested in the possibility of streaming flight data for security reasons, but says there are many questions to consider.

"What are the rates at which those data need to be transmitted?" Kolly said. "And also ... what is going to trigger the data download?"

This could very well become an important topic of conversation in June at an annual summit of the International Air Transport Association — comprised of the heads of the world’s major airlines — at Doha, Qatar.

Image via YouTube

Pam Wright