Jan. 11, 2015: It’s now been two weeks and two days (local time) since AirAsia Flight 8501 crashed into the Java Sea. It took nearly two weeks just to locate the tail section of the airplane, which was raised. The flight data recorder was recovered Jan. 12 local time but the cockpit voice recorder is still missing.
Greg Feith, a former crash investigator for the US National Transportation Safety Board, wrote Sunday on his Facebook page, “ADS-B data was used to narrow the search area for the main wreckage. Info from both black boxes will finally provide a factual foundation that the airplane likely ended up in a high speed descent, probably a spiral descent, and impacted the water in an out-of-control situation and not an attempted emergency landing. With the main wreckage scattered, the airplane likely broke-up and skipped across the surface. We should know soon as the info is developed and provided by the NTSC.”
This once again adds more reason that the time has come for real-time flight tracking and for real-time flight data recorder transmission. Having these installed would have sent rescuers immediately to the last location of the airplane, which, had there been survivors, would have had a chance of being rescued.
AirAsia, on its own, was beginning to install flight tracking but 8501 had not been upgraded yet.
If FDR transmission were in effect, we’d already have a good understanding of what happened, though not necessarily “why.” Information emerging from accidents may be crucial in adopting procedures or correcting errors to prevent future accidents. The fact that the flight data and cockpit voice recorders haven’t been recovered yet only illustrates the hazards of continuing to do business the old fashioned way. In this day and age of advanced technology, the industry needs to change. Regulators continue the tombstone mentality of dragging their feet.
Fortunately, AirAsia took a voluntary step on flight tracking and now Qatar Airways are in the process of installing real-time flight tracking and FDR transmission in some of its airplanes. Canada’s FirstAir already has installed flight tracking on its fleet.