Shelly: Flight 370 tragedy: Why do we still hide the answers in the ‘black box'?

Kansas City StarMarch 26, 2014 

MCT

For families of the souls on board, the news on the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 must be especially excruciating.

New data last showed the flight was last detected over water, far from a landing strip.

“It is therefore with deep sadness and regret that I must inform you that, according to this new data, Flight MH370 ended in the southern Indian Ocean,” Malaysia Prime Minister Najib Razak announced at a news conference.

So there is no hope, but no closure either. No answer to the question that has burned for days: Why was the jetliner with 227 passengers and 12 crew members so far off course, in such a remote part of the world?

What happened?

It could take days or weeks or years to figure that out. Perhaps an eternity. And it doesn’t have to be that way.

It’s incredible that we still rely on the “black box” to solve aviation mysteries. Right now, if officials are correct, the black box of Flight 370 is underwater, holding the data the world is waiting for. It may never be found.

Yet technology exists to live stream flight data in real time.

CNN reported on a Canadian company, Flyht Aerospace Solutions, which makes a system that automatically monitors location, altitude, airline performance and other factors. It can detect when something goes awry, such as a flight path deviation, and begin streaming second-by-second data.

The reason most airlines don’t use this technology is, of course, cost. It takes about $100,000 to install the system.

The company’s executives say their system saves airlines money in the long run by alerting them to problems and potential efficiencies. But airlines don’t want to spend the money up front.

Given the total cost of constructing a plane, $100,000 doesn’t seem too high a cost to spare families, airlines and entire governments the agony of what’s gone on with Flight 370 over the past 17 days.

Email Ms. Shelly, a columnist for the Kansas City Star, at bshellykcstar.com.

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