The Malaysian Insider
March 20, 2014
Malaysia Airlines opted out of a simple computer upgrade that costs RM33 per flight which would have provided critical information to help find the missing flight MH370 because it went for a cheaper option when purchasing the aircraft, the Sydney Morning Herald reported today.
A satellite industry official was quoted as saying that the upgrade, called Swift, would have provided the direction, speed and altitude of flight MH370 even after other communications from the plane went off the radar.
Had the Swift system been upgraded to include the full package of applications, it could have sent information on engine performance, fuel consumption, speed, altitude and direction, regardless of whether the transponder and Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) were working, he said.
The expert, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, told the Australian daily that the Swift system was similar to how a smartphone sends data to a satellite, while ACARS was akin to an app for a mobile phone.
“When ACARS is turned off, Swift continues on,” he told the Sydney Morning Herald.
“If you configure Swift to track engine data, that data will be streamed off the plane. It continues to be powered up while the aircraft is powered up.”
The report showed that had Malaysia Airlines obtained the upgrade, it would have continued to send flight data by satellite even after the plane’s transponder and ACARS communications went dead.
Asked why an airline might choose not to buy an application that sells for a relatively modest cost, the industry official told the SMH: “Every pound on an aircraft is fuel consumed. As in all matters, it always comes down to cost.”
Rather than stream that data, he said, some airlines chose to download it onto a USB stick once the plane landed.
Because Malaysia Airlines went with the cheaper option, he said, “there was not an awful lot that was captured”.
Zainul Zawawi, vice-president for North America operations at Malaysia Airlines, told the SMH that he was not authorised to speak about the missing flight and referred questions to airline officials in Malaysia.
Efforts by SMH to reach those officials were not successful.
According to the report, data from a similar computer upgrade allowed investigators in the 2009 crash of an Air France jetliner to hone in quickly on their search area to a radius of about 64km in the Atlantic Ocean. Within five days they found floating evidence of the crash.
This is not the first time Malaysia Airlines has hit the headlines for not subscribing to a programme that would aid in the search for flight MH370.
Bloomberg reported last week that the flag carrier did not install an important Boeing service that collects real-time performance data from jetliners such as flight MH370 that was useful in planning maintenance.
The unprecedented search for the Boeing 777-200ER (9M-MRO) had focused on two vast search corridors: one heading north overland from Laos towards the Caspian Sea, the other towards the south, across the Indian Ocean from west of Indonesia’s Sumatra island to west of Australia.
Reuters said prospects that the 26-nation search operation would lead to quick results appeared to be dwindling, however, as investigators confirmed they were focusing on the remote southern Indian Ocean after failing to find any traces of the jet further north.
“Our top priority is being given to that area,” acting Transport Minister Datuk Seri Hishammuddin Hussein had said.
Australia is leading the search in the southern part of the southern corridor, with assistance from the United States navy.
It has shrunk its search field based on satellite tracking data and analysis of weather and currents, but it still covers an area of 600,000 sq km, roughly the size of Spain and Portugal. – March 20, 2014.