Where's the black box from the missing jet?
Daniel Bitonti, CTVNews.ca
Published Tuesday, March 11, 2014 10:04AM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, March 11, 2014 11:44AM EDT
Whatever happened to Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370 likely happened so fast that pilots were not able to send a distress signal, a Toronto-based aviation expert says, adding that authorities will likely be left in the dark until the onboard “black box” is found.
“Most probably in this case the airplane has disintegrated very, very quickly -- the pilot did not have time to give a distress signal,” Joseph Yeremian, the president of Thermodyne Engineering and a board member of the Ontario Aerospace Council, told CTV’s Canada AM on Tuesday.
“Basically, what happens in those situations is the pilot tries to manoeuvre the airplane, and forgets about giving the news. There’s no time to report back.”
The black box, also known as the flight data recorder, can withstand high-impact crashes, as well as extreme temperatures caused by either fire and ice. It can also withstand deep-sea pressure.
But because the device is kept onboard, authorities will first have to locate the area where MH370 went down before they start looking for the flight recorder. If they are able find the device, it will likely give them a fuller picture of what happened, as black boxes record voices within the cockpit, as well as the data about the aircraft’s equipment.
The Boeing 777, which was carrying 239 people, has been missing Saturday. Authorities have found no debris from the plane, though they expanded their search Tuesday to include "both sides" of Malaysia. The plane had departed from the Malaysian capital of Kuala Lumpur.
Yeremian says while air-traffic controllers will typically follow a flight’s movements via radar and GPS, commercial flights still don’t send real-time data to the ground about what is happening onboard -- whether that be related to instrument data or cockpit conversations.
The main reason why airlines don’t track the real-time, onboard activities of a flight appears to be cost.
Since Flight MH370 disappeared, many commentators and observers have pointed to a 2002 study that concluded if a U.S. airline were to create a global network capable of transmitting all flight data, it would cost roughly $300 million per year.
But the reality is that even if remnants of Flight MH370 are discovered, getting to the bottom of the mystery could take years, and there is a chance it will never be completely solved.
It took nearly two years for French and Brazilian authorities, for example, to find the flight recorder from a 2009 Air France crash.
Flight recorders will emit radio signals or a “ping” for at least 30 days, and that signal can be detected even if the device is submerged in water.
But with such a vast area of land and sea for search crews to cover, there is no guarantee the MH370 flight recorder will be found.