walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

Bad headline, silly commentary, interesting background

[TL; DR? Read this instead: http://www.wsj.com/articles/airliner-tracking-to-become-norm-1416185142 What's actually being proposed and will likely happen is every 15 minute location data required for flights over areas with minimal radar coverage. Also, Mr. Smith says 40K daily flights; WSJ say 100K -- the vast majority unaffected by the rule change.]


I waste time on the internet. BI is a preferred location for doing so.

This item has a terrible headline. Hopefully Patrick Smith is not responsible for it.

Smith is responding to an op-ed in the NYT. Here is a link to the op-ed, which is not provided in the BI piece, which is a reprint from AskThePilot.com.


Smith claims that the op-ed has errors in it. Here is one of the errors.

"Airlines use satellites to provide Internet connections for passengers, yet they still do not stream data in real time about a plane’s location and condition."

Smith says, "Neither of these things is true, usually.", which includes the quote above as one of the items. Yet it _is_ true. Smith thinks that because in many parts of the world, airplanes are in real time contact, that constitutes streaming data in real time about a plane's location AND CONDITION. But it doesn't. It's location. And then Smith concedes that transoceanic flights don't even do that. So the op-ed is actually right and the criticism is misleading.

I wouldn't have picked on JUST a stupid logic error. Really. I came here to pick on Patrick Smith for this:

"The main reason why is because it would take immense mounts of bandwidth, multiplied by the thousands of airplanes in the air at any one time, to upload all of the hundreds of parameters monitored by the FDR and CVR. And for what practical purpose, exactly? For the one airplane every 25 years or so that is temporarily missing, out of the 40,000 or so commercial flights that operate every day? Such a thing is certainly possible, but it would be technologically challenging and highly expensive. Is it really needed, in practical terms?

This issue comes up all the time. To me, it’s symptomatic of a culture in which people are accustomed to instant explanations and instant access to everything. People are saying, “Why can’t we have all the answers, right now!”"

(1) The op-ed wasn't suggesting full telemetry transmission all the time for all aircraft. You can transmit summary condition information very, very briefly -- like, a few bits. And that's kinda what people are proposing.

(2) 3 commercial aircraft have fallen out of the sky recently, granted, one was due to enemy action. But the other two weren't, and we still haven't found one of them. "For the one airplane every 25 years or so that is temporarily missing" is a crude, dismissive, and flippant way to respond to TWO commercial aircraft going down in the same quarter of the world -- and one of them STILL not found. The searches and news coverage and plain old human agony suffered as a result are expensive. I don't think that tracking a few bits of condition data and full location data on 40,000 flights a day is too much to ask in a world where I can track my husband, High Priestess, sister, son, etc. using Find My Friends. Much less in a world where you can get little devices that use low e bluetooth to keep track of your keys and shit.

I don't know why Patrick Smith, AskThePilot.com, or BI thinks it is a good idea to produce this bad of an argument in favor of NOT tracking transoceanic commercial flights. But I've got sort of a conspiracy theory going that says Patrick Smith is an idiot, and everyone else is using him to present a sincere straw man for them to argue against, in favor of what they really want ... which is location and condition monitoring.

Poor Mr. Smith. Sacrificed as clickbait.

ETA: I would argue that it is particularly important that the part of the world where Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 went down in March, and the more recent December crash of the AirAsia flight come up with solutions to the tracking and condition problem, because increasing standard of living and increasing air travel in the region will tend to exacerbate this problem until an adequate solution is devised.

ETAYA: There's at least one (downvoted) commenter over on FlightAware who refers to Mr. Smith as "this clown".

ETAYA: My husband would like to remind people that the airplane that was Air France 447 in 2009 was not found until 2011, altho bodies and debris were found within a few days.

I will also point out that this would appear to be the basis for Mr. Smith saying this only happens ever 25 years:


That was the last flight on the wikipedia list for commercial airline incidents before the Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 to never be found, and it occurred in 1989.

Characterizing two airplanes going missing, one for 9 or 10 months and still not found, the other for 25 years and still not found, and characterizing that as one every 25 years going temporarily missing is incredibly calloused. There was also the Air France one in 2009 that was missing for 2 years as well, which makes 1 every 25 years just wrong. My husband would like to point out that the expense associated with the searches is really pretty incredible.
Tags: our future economy today
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