A version of this story was originally published in March 2014, after Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared. Planes typically relay maintenance information in flight to their manufacturers or airlines.
In the case of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, the technology at issue is called ACARS, for Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System. The system sends different sorts of information between the plane and airlines and manufacturers on the ground. Depending on the sophistication of the information, the airline might receive the information itself or rely on the manufacturer to relay it for a fee.
John Hansman, director of the International Center for Air Transportation at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, estimates 90% of U.S. planes have some version of the system because it saves airlines money.
What’s the next step when we’re dealing with missing planes? Is technology slow in this area since at times it still takes a while to locate missing planes.