Should flight data be streamed live?

(CNN) – The mysterious disappearance of Malaysian Flight 307 has many experts asking if something more could be done to track commercial flights, and safety officials say it may be time to re-think the black boxes.

So many potential answers to this mystery lie in a small metal container that for the moment has disappeared with Malaysia Air Flight 370. They were once called black boxes. They’re actually orange. They have the cockpit voice recorder – capturing what the pilots say and the flight data recorder with the plane’s speed, direction; crucial mechanical data. They can withstand crashes and can function even from the bottom of the ocean. But the clock’s ticking.

“The pingers, the locators on those devices only last for 30 days,” said former NTSB Air Safety Investigator Alan Diehl.

Safety experts say with this incident it’s time to figure out how to stream that information live instead of waiting for the box to be recovered from the crash site.

“You can get a lot of information out very quickly, and this could be recorded information, say for the last 10 minutes, that is sent almost instantaneously if the aircraft gets in some kind of distress,” said Diehl.

Experts say data would stream live- from the aircraft to a satellite, then to the ground. If the plane goes into a rapid roll or sudden loss of altitude, it would automatically trigger the data-stream. The technology exists. Why haven’t airlines installed it?

“It takes a certain amount of money to retrofit the fleets,” said former NTSB Managing Director Peter Goelz. “And secondly, it costs money to stream through a satellite.”

Plus, the airlines would have to build ground stations to take in the data. Expensive, considering most accidents like this are very rare.

“You only have this kind of accident rarely, but when you have it, it is extraordinarily expensive,” said Goelz. “Hundreds of millions of dollars were spent searching for Air France 447.”

Searchers took two years to find the data recorders for that Air France flight that went down in the Atlantic in 2009, killing 228 people.

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