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Wed 4 Jun 2014 09:53 AM

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Emirates CEO says new plane tracking technology is "unnecessary"

Tim Clark says public pressure should be on fully understanding the disappearance of missing Malaysian Airlines jet

Emirates CEO says new plane tracking technology is "unnecessary"

Emirates Airline CEO Tim Clark has said increased emphasis on creating new technology to track passenger aeroplanes is unnecessary if airlines are properly securing access to onboard tracking systems.

Clark told Arabian Business the aviation industry was being pressured to introduce new technology in light of the Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 that disappeared nearly two months ago with 239 people on board.

But he said existing devices worked sufficiently; the issue was simply to ensure no one was able to tamper with them.

"You don't have to have another satellite; you don't have to have additional hardware on board the aeroplane," Clark told Arabian Business on the sidelines of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) annual general meeting in Doha.

"This is a path that people are walking down at the moment - being pushed for reasons I'm not all together clear about.

"Don't allow anybody to disable a sat-com in flight; don't allow them access to circuit breakers; don't allow them into the flight control computers to allow them to deactivate them, and then your problem's solved."

Emirates has the world's largest fleet of 777s - the aircraft that was lost, believed to be in the Southern Indian Ocean.

Clark said the airline had carried out multiple new tests since the Malaysian incident and he was confident an Emirates plane could not disappear, although it still made him feel "uncomfortable".

"I'm deeply uncomfortable about it, deeply uncomfortable about it," he said.

"I have done exhaustive testing with our technical resources people and everything else. I'm satisfied that we're doing the right thing.

"(But) I think a lot more needs to come out about (the missing plane) and the people and entities involved need to be more forthright and candid about what they know."

IATA and the heads of many of its member airlines have spoken out about the need for better satellite systems. The industry body announced this week it was working on options to improve aircraft surveillance and would present them by September. "Aviation stakeholders are united in their desire to ensure that we never face another situation where an aircraft simply disappears," IATA senior vice-president safety and flight operations Kevin Hiatt said.

Air France this week said it would take a leading role in assessing "long-term standardised solutions" for monitoring passenger aircraft in real time. Chairman and CEO Alexandre de Juniac told Arabian Business the rest would involve beaming the position of his aircraft back to headquarters every minute, rather than 10 minutes. But he conceded it would not prevent crashes or the potential for planes to disappear, only the airline would know about it sooner.

But Clark insisted the industry was being blindly led by public pressure to react to the Malaysian missing plane.

"It's public pressure because nobody understands what happened to Malaysian 370," he said.

"The notion that an aircraft heading on a prescribed flight path at 33,000 feet should turn everything off does not suggest for a moment that it's blip on primary radar disappears, otherwise we'd be talking about stealth, wouldn't we," he said.

"So that aircraft takes a left turn at 250 miles at 540 miles an hour and nobody noticed it?"

Clark said if an Emirates plane flew off course and it's transponder disappeared, a radar blip would still show up on countries' satellite systems and when the plane passed unidentified into a nation's air space, that nation would have military aircraft onto it within minutes.

"That aircraft (MH370) seemingly undetected proceeded to cross the Malaysian Peninsula to do a strange dog-leg route and then happen to turn due south and all we're relying on is the inbuilt satellite algorithm to give us some directional headings by clearing out the chaff of that area - no," he said.

"We're saying it flew for six hours with suicidal pilots, who knew how to inter-dict a system that not even my pilots can do?

"That's where you need to (examine), not start looking at closing the door after the horse has bolted and start looking at satellites in the Arctic."

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The Girl who flies planes 6 years ago

Just because his family was not on MH 370!
What a selfish old man!

leo50 6 years ago

what a silly comment to make without justification!

Gabriel 6 years ago

Emirates CEO is out of touch with the real world and such comments coming from a major airline CEO is not only insensitive towards MH 370 victim’s families, but an insult to the industry.
I wonder what would have happened if the missing airline was one of Emirates Airline?

Frequent Flyer 6 years ago

Finally a sensible factual approach to the reality of the issue- well done TC for speaking openly and honestly- no one else has dared to!
Other commentators clearly haven't fully read or comprehended what he said - otherwise they wouldn't have made such comments!

Todd 6 years ago

His comments weren't insensitive nor were they an insult to the industry. It's the smartest amount of information to come out of an airline CEO's mouth since this whole saga began. What he says makes absolute sense.

I think you need to go back and re read the article and grasp just what he is saying because it's quite obvious you don't have a clue.

And something like this would have never happened to an Emirates plane. Had it happened, the plane would have been found within days. It's so very clear that MH370 didn't crash and that a few governments are well aware of where the plane is and what happened to it.

Simon Gunson 6 years ago

Tim Clark is partly correct that aircraft already have all the tracking technology they need if only it were implemented as mandatory everywhere.

However he is also wrong to assume it was intentionally switched off. What happens if there was an electrical failure, or surges?

What happens if the ADS-C which is contracted to the Air Traffic Service has a surge which disengages the FANS 1/A contract?

If that happens ADS-C will not re-boot and re-establish transponder contact.

There is evidence that MH370 may have flown south from Vietnam into an area without primary radar or ADS-C coverage. Approximately thee hours after take off MH370 sent five transponder signals at 2:47,2:48,2:49,2:50 and 2:51am MYT. The only logical explanation for this is that it flew south over Indonesia and was painted for a few moments by a civil Primary Surveillance Radar.

Malaysian Investigators have totally ignored this vital evidence and clearly do not appreciate it's importance.

Simon Gunson 6 years ago

I wish to correct my previous comment, due to my own appalling arithmetic.

The transponder log which I saw from flightaware's website for MH370 was converted to my local time and in converting it back, I made a mistake.

The transponder return times were between 3:48am-3:51am.

To properly correlate satellite handshake pings they must also explain which civilian airport SSR received MH370's transponder signals?

My guess is somewhere in Indonesia.

Flightaware website takes ADS-B feed from SITA in Singapore. MH370 uses an ADS-C system which is similar to ADS-B but different in that pilots have to contract their aircraft to correspond with the relevant Air Traffic Service by logging in with it. If they fly outside of the area where they are contracted to fly then the system software protocols continue to assume transponder returns still come from where the plane was expected to be, not where it actually was.

This was why MH370 was briefly thought to have landed at Namming, China