A year into MH370 disappearance, Chinese maker pushes for new recorder system
Updated: 2015-03-08 10:01
Crew aboard the Australian Defence Vessel Ocean Shield move the US Navy's Bluefin-21 into position for deployment in the southern Indian Ocean April 14, 2014 to look for the missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH370 in this picture released by the US Navy. [Photo/Agencies]
LOS ANGELES - In an event of a test model plane crash, an emergency recorder and tracking system is separated from the tail section of the plane.
The test, which is shown in a video clip, is part of a series of tests completed since October by the US subsidiary of the Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC) on a comprehensive emergency information recorder and tracking system.
COMAC America Corporation says its emergency recorder system includes a data storage and transmitter called Harbinger, claiming for the system it had been applying new methods that transcend traditional designs of black box recorders used in commercial aircraft.
The yearlong searching effort for Malaysia Airlines' missing flight MH370 has turned up with no sign of the plane, but it has fueled the company's resolve to come up with a system more efficient instead.
The flight MH370, a Boeing 777-200, disappeared en route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing on March 8, 2014, with 239 passengers and crew on board. So far no trace has been found despite a massive surface and underwater hunt, in what has become one of the biggest mysteries in the aviation history.
The search is jointly carried out by Australia, Malaysia and China in the vast swaths of the Indian Ocean some 1,600 kilometers off Australia's west coast, with four ships using sophisticated sonar systems to scour a huge underwater area.
The protracted search for the missing plane's black boxes, or the flight data and cockpit voice recorders, are presenting new demands for aviation security and rescue. Major aircraft makers of the world continue to contribute to black box technologies.
A traditional black box emits distress signals for 30 days after sinking with the plane. It stores 30-minutes of cockpit voice conversation and two hours of flight data before the crash.
However, when the plane crashes and goes down at sea, the sonar signal emitted from the black box only transmits several kilometers, therefore requiring a rather definitive search area, which is often difficult in sea crashes.
If the black box becomes covered in seabed sludge (or heavy snow, in the case of a mountainside crash), distress signals are weak and hard to detect, making it difficult to locate the crash site in a timely manner for rescue.
COMAC America believes that the Harbinger emergency system is a useful supplement to existing black box designs that sink with the plane after a crash.
Engineers of the company say, the Harbinger emergency system is able to capture images of the last few minutes of the plane before it crashes. With the system, the last few minutes of the plane's position, black box data, and video footage is captured through cloud technology to a satellite.
The system can also save a copy of the data and is equipped with a parachute and inflation system to enable it to stay afloat at sea. The inflation system can also protect hardware when the Harbinger lands on hard surfaces. It will also transmit distress signals to help rescue teams locate its position.
Based on repeated tests of the system, the video footage of the last few minutes of a plane crash, for instance, offers invaluable insight into the data captured in a traditional black box. The position tracking system and cloud data transmission function also increases the probability of rapid location of the crash site and the survivability of the captured flight data.
"Being able to find the true cause of an air disaster is a crucial step towards improving aircraft designs for safer air travel tomorrow," said Wei Ye, president of COMAC America Corporation told Xinhua. "The Harbinger emergency system will bring revolutionary changes to air rescue and aviation security."
The company has filed a patent application of the Harbinger emergency system with the US Patent and Trademark Office, said Ye, adding that "we believe new models of commercial aircraft in the future will benefit from using this system."