Since the mysterious disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 five days ago, some have called for a real-time data service that would diagnostically monitor an aircraft's mechanical well being. It turns out that Boeing offers that service, and according to an article published by Bloomberg this evening, Malaysia Airlines opted out.
Blooomberg's anonymous source in the article said that Malaysia Airlines collects the same data itself — so we are left wondering where that data is, and why haven't we seen it? The airline has stated:
"All Malaysia Airlines aircraft are equipped with continuous data monitoring system called the Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System (ACARS) which transmits data automatically," the carrier said. "Nevertheless, there were no distress calls and no information was relayed."
Boeing planes come equipped with a data collection and messaging program called Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System, or ACARS. While data collection is valuable, Boeing's Airplane Health Management (AHM) adds an extra layer of protection by relaying that information in real-time to the airline via satellite. From Boeing's website, AHM offers "access to real-time advanced diagnostics and prognostics to drive predictive maintenance, operators can now identify issues before they become problems – all resulting in reduced schedule interruptions and increased maintenance and operational efficiency" and is use by 65 airlines worldwide, on about 75 percent of Boeing 777s in operation.
Boeing's AHM Brochure also says the program offers three types of decision support: Real-Time Fault Management, Custom Alerting and Analysis, and Performance Monitoring.
While Boeing's Airplane Health Management may not have prevented a catastrophe (if indeed that's what happened) we'd still likely have more answers than we do now.
Top image: Malaysia Airlines Boeing 777, from Air Icarus on Flickr - licensed under Creative Commons for commercial use.