Key Information Missing for Flight MH370

  • Mar 11, 2014 1:12pm GMT

We are all taken aback by Malaysia Airlines Flight 370; finding the location of the aircraft has left search and rescue teams baffled.

As you can imagine from a dispatcher's standpoint, this is the worst case scenario. There are reports going out now that state the aircraft failed to transmit its automated reports - reports that could help lead to the discovery and any maintenance issues that were occurring during flight.

In the United States, the Federal Aviation Regulations (FARs) regulate what we call “flight following” for all dispatched flights under part 121. This means that once I’ve compiled the flight plan and have deemed it safe for flight, I will then watch every altitude change, route change, and relay pertinent information to the crew in-flight to maintain a safe operation.

With that, we are also required to maintain reliable sources of communication with each flight. The most common source of communication is through the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, also known as ACARS. ACARS is a digital datalink system for transmission of short, relatively simple messages between aircraft and ground stations via radio or satellite, basically your standard SMS text messages you send on your phone, and recording and sending data to the airline's headquarters - almost like your car’s computer system.

In an event such as Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, a dispatcher would have been flight following the flight. As soon as irregularities were spotted, the dispatcher would try to contact the flight crew to investigate and confirm the irregularities. If no contact was made, the dispatcher would then contact air traffic control and other company aircraft in the area that could possibly radio or contact the non-responsive crew. From this point a dispatcher would be in touch with the airline’s management team and could very well declare an emergency. This would trigger and launch an immediate search and rescue operation.

(Reuters) -Flight MH370 disappeared early on Saturday about an hour into its flight from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing after climbing to a cruising altitude of 35,000 feet.

Malaysia on Monday called the disappearance an unprecedented mystery as a massive air and sea search now in its third day failed to find any trace of the plane or 239 people on board.