Definition of Insanity

Two weeks ago, I asked, “Live Black Boxes…Need or Want?”  This question followed what seemed to be a media frenzy over live black boxes while they searched for something to report about MH370.  Since then, thousands of man hours have been expended looking for the Boeing 777.  Flight crews have taken risks flying low underneath the weather.  Ships are making their way through difficult seas to support the search.  Satellites have been redirected to new orbits.  

Definition of insanity…

The Guardian, citing @AviationSafety, reports over 100 flights have gone missing since 1948.  Most notable here is Air France 447 because of the calls for live black boxes following the disappearance of the Airbus 330.  

…Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

According to what I’ve read several places, the major pushback on implementation of live black boxes has been from the airlines over the cost of connectivity and data storage.  

Stop the madness!

@SimpleFlight posed a question via a Twitter during their March 23 Simple Flight Radio broadcast about whether or not live black boxes would become a requirement.  My discussion with them basically covered:

  1. Yes, new mandates will come because of concern for survivors of any given crash and the resources being expended in the current search effort.  
  2. ACARS is a more likely platform than ADS-B due to bandwidth and international coverage.  

@RunwayGirl appeared on CBS to discuss possibilities for providing in fight position and, possibly, other data.  She offered several options, including a short term solution to allow a more comprehensive system to develop.  

Given the enormous effort being put forth to find MH370, I don’t think the airline industry can get away with, “It costs too much.” any more.  In fact, I submit, their best move right now is to propose a plan before any regulatory or law-making body does. At a minimum, this plan should include transmission of position, altitude, airspeed, heading, and any abnormal conditions no less often than every 5 minutes for transport category aircraft operating over areas without primary radar coverage.  The timeline should be 3 to 5 years for full implementation.  

Is this too much to ask or not enough?

2 thoughts on “Definition of Insanity”

  1. The unfortunate reality to all this, with all due respect to the MH370 victims, is the fact that airlines are willing to exhibit certain amount of risk in order to save costs.

    Should an airline spent 40 million dollars on a solution over the next 10 years, when they could take out insurance for much less, hedging against a rare, rare crash?

    It’s unfortunate, but true, that although we have the technologies out there, sometimes the cost isn’t worth the benefit, and the carriers are willing to “lose one”.

    1. Although I don’t have a copy, I understand some research has been done on the total impact of a crash on an airline, i.e. damage to reputation and the resulting loss of passengers and revenue. While you are correct the cost-benefit of adding a safety system vs the cost of insurance may discourage spending, the second and third order effects can be devastating. Consider ValuJet after the crash of Flight 592 into the Everglades. They changed their name twice in quick succession, if I recall correctly, to separate themselves from the bad reputation of the name “ValuJet.”

      A live black box or position reporting system would not have prevented this crash, but the depth and duration of negative press would probably have been much less. The story of MH370 is likely to hurt Malaysian Airlines for some time.

      Thanks for your comment.

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