Boeing 737 MAX flights to be tracked via satellites

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As the Boeing 737 MAX is slowly returning to the skies, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will use satellites to monitor its every flight worldwide.

The FAA will be checking the performance of each 737 MAX flight using a technology that sends data from an airplane via satellites. It is the first time the agency is using such technology to keep an eye on a single-model aircraft to detect any issues early on.

The system “will flag deviations from certain parameters during all phases of flight and alert the FAA’s aviation safety division,” the federal agency told the Seattle Times. “Safety engineers and inspectors will use the early notification to further analyze the incident.”

Aireon, an air traffic surveillance company based in McLean, Virginia, was contracted to track every MAX flight using an Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast system (ADS-B). The system will be streaming data from the aircraft every half second to the FAA Technical Center in New Jersey. ADS-B provides more accurate tracking than the standard radar system as it can track aircraft over the oceans, the Earth’s poles or inaccessible terrains. Every new Airbus or Boeing jet is equipped with an ADS-B transmitter that broadcasts the date from each individual plane.

“There is 70 percent of the world’s airspace that has no surveillance coverage,” said Aireon CEO Don Thoma. “That includes the oceans and mountainous regions.”

When Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 disappeared into the ocean with 239 people aboard in 2014, the ADS-B system was not yet in place. Aireon aims to provide tracking that would prevent such incidents in the future.

The MAX tracking will also provide daily reports on routine operations, how many times the flights took off on a given day, the duration, and any anomalies detected.

On November 18, 2020, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) of the United States became the first authority to recertify the Boeing 737 MAX. The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA), Transport Canada (TC), Brazil’s National Civil Aviation Agency (ANAC), Britain’s Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) have also recertified the Boeing 737 MAX, allowing it to resume commercial service again.


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