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  #1  
Old 09-21-2009, 03:18 PM
astro astro is offline
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Commercial airplanes do not use GPS technology

This suprised me.


Call for GPS on airplanes


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Chicago - Get lost in the woods and a cell phone in your pocket can help camping buddies find you. Drive into a ditch and GPS in your car lets emergency crews pinpoint the crash site.

But when a transcontinental flight is above the middle of the ocean, no one on the ground can see exactly where it is - in the air, or worse, in the water.

The disappearance of Air France Flight 477 and its 228 passengers over the Atlantic Ocean this week has critics of radar-based air traffic control calling on the US and other countries to hasten the move to GPS-based networks that promise to precisely track all planes.

Current radars are obsolete more than 320km from land.

"The technology's there - we've had this stuff for 15 years and little's happened," said Michael Boyd, a Colorado-based airline analyst. "My BlackBerry can be used to track me, so why can't we do it with planes?"
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  #2  
Old 09-21-2009, 03:34 PM
muldoonthief muldoonthief is offline
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When you're using your blackberry or phone, you're using 2 completely different technologies - GPS lets the device calculate its own location, then the device uses WiFi or GSM or something to transmit that information elsewhere. So you've got a similar problem with planes over the ocean - putting in a GPS so the plane and pilots know exactly where they are is trivial - transmitting that info continuously to an ATC center is not.
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  #3  
Old 09-21-2009, 04:38 PM
Whack-a-Mole Whack-a-Mole is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by muldoonthief View Post
When you're using your blackberry or phone, you're using 2 completely different technologies - GPS lets the device calculate its own location, then the device uses WiFi or GSM or something to transmit that information elsewhere. So you've got a similar problem with planes over the ocean - putting in a GPS so the plane and pilots know exactly where they are is trivial - transmitting that info continuously to an ATC center is not.
I see no reason why the data couldn't be sent back to a satellite.

That said I have no idea how flying through, say, an electrical storm might affect that.

There is no reason the data needs to be continuous either. Maybe squirt location data (Lat/Lon) + flight identifier to the satellite once a minute. The satellite need not beam all the info back either in a real time basis. It could hang on to it and only send data if asked. Keep enough storage to handle perhaps a day's worth of data (my iPhone could hold that). If a plane fails to land then start rummaging through the satellites on its path to see where its last reported position was.
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  #4  
Old 09-21-2009, 05:06 PM
Gatopescado Gatopescado is offline
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I'm guessing that it is not cost effective. What the airlines need are better snacks.
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  #5  
Old 09-22-2009, 03:11 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Commercial airliners have used GPS technology for navigation for donkey's years. Ok, so you want it not for navigation but for position information to someone on the ground. Well ADSB, which is the GPS tracking system everyone wants to hurry up already, STILL uses ground based receivers so it's STILL not going to find an aircraft in the middle of the ocean. The comparison to cell phones is a red hearing. Cell phones also rely on ground based receivers. Your Blackberry isn't going to be found in the middle of the ocean any better than that jet was.
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  #6  
Old 09-22-2009, 03:23 AM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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"For $100, you can run down and buy a GPS system, put it in your car and know exactly where you are. But planes don't have it."
This, by the way, is complete bullshit. GPS is very common in aircraft from four seat Cessnas and up. The worry now days is that new private pilots are so reliant on their GPS that they are not acquiring good visual navigation and map reading skills. I hope the journalist has misquoted that person, because if Robert Poole actually said that then he has as much aviation expertise as an angler fish.

Yes automatic position information to ATC via satellite would be great, however to suggest that aviation is somehow lagging behind cellphone and publicly available GPS technology by not having it is wildly inaccurate.

Last edited by Richard Pearse; 09-22-2009 at 03:26 AM..
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  #7  
Old 09-22-2009, 04:30 AM
GuanoLad GuanoLad is online now
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Presumably many passengers on a plane after a crash have GPS on their phones, but that doesn't seem to help.
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  #8  
Old 09-22-2009, 04:48 AM
Magiver Magiver is offline
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I personally don't know a private pilot who owns a plane and doesn't have a GPS (YESSSS I'm sure one exists somewhere). The Air France plane had a GPS system on it and could easily be tapped into the company sat-link. what the article seems to be suggesting is the construction of a common sat-link among carriers that is tied into the current tracking system.

Makes sense to do it on a company level but it's solving a rare problem and would not have affected the outcome. What probably happened with the Air France flight was incurrsion into weather that was not survivable. Could just as easily have happened on approach into Dallas. Dead is dead.
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  #9  
Old 09-22-2009, 05:59 AM
Broomstick Broomstick is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1920s Style "Death Ray" View Post
This, by the way, is complete bullshit. GPS is very common in aircraft from four seat Cessnas and up.
I've seen homebuilt ultralight and powered parachutes with GPS units - they're everywhere in aviation, and have been for years.
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  #10  
Old 09-22-2009, 07:18 AM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is online now
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Originally Posted by Broomstick View Post
I've seen homebuilt ultralight and powered parachutes with GPS units - they're everywhere in aviation, and have been for years.
GPS for identifying one's own location is of course very common nowadays in all sorts of endeavors. My friends and I use it on motorcycle trips; it's great for preplanned routes on group rides.

The other piece of the puzzle - transmitting one's location (and status) to other people via satellite link - is growing in popularity. see Spot Tracker for one example.

Although the whole problem of satellite-based location reporting has already been solved, it will not be cheap to implement it on commercial aircraft. A whole new system will have to be conceived of, developed, tested, tested some more, installed on a few test aircraft and then field-tested, and then finally installed on every dang commercial plane out there, and then there's the maintenance/inspection program that has to go along with it. Expect a startup price tag in the billions, with annual maintenance costs to boot.

And so the question arises as to whether it's really worth it. The Air France crash looms large in this discussion only because it was so very recent. Apart from that one, can you name half a dozen other ciommercial aviation crashes in which first responders had serious difficulty/delays in locating the crash site? Can you name even two crashes in which such delays led to a "significant" loss of life? "Significant" is important: if we spend billions of dollars to save one life, then no, it's not worth it. That's distasteful to say, but since we have limited treasure, we must set limits on how it's spent.
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  #11  
Old 09-22-2009, 08:14 AM
enipla enipla is offline
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You can get GPS for your dog. - www.zoombak.com/products/pet

I tried it, but don't get a good enough cell signal for it to transmit the location back. Pretty cool though. I'm going to try it again in a few years when we have better coverage.
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  #12  
Old 09-22-2009, 10:21 AM
jjimm jjimm is offline
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Originally Posted by enipla View Post
You can get GPS for your dog. - www.zoombak.com/products/pet
You can get GPS underwear for your lady. (Vaguely NSFW if your W doesn't like pictures of ladies in lingerie.)
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  #13  
Old 09-23-2009, 11:05 AM
BigT BigT is offline
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I'm confused on why it's so hard. Does not the pilot have constant radio contact with the ground anyways? Don't they have to report their positions anyways? Why would it be hard to automate this process, if they already have GPS receivers on board?

I understand that having a network devoted specifically to this would be nice. But it's not like a workaround doesn't exist in the meantime.
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  #14  
Old 09-23-2009, 05:34 PM
Richard Pearse Richard Pearse is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I'm confused on why it's so hard. Does not the pilot have constant radio contact with the ground anyways? Don't they have to report their positions anyways? Why would it be hard to automate this process, if they already have GPS receivers on board?

I understand that having a network devoted specifically to this would be nice. But it's not like a workaround doesn't exist in the meantime.
You mean have automated radio position reporting instead of the pilot initiated reports? If so, the problem is that there is then no confirmation that all is well on the aircraft. A position report serves several purposes, it informs ATC of the aircraft's position and altitude, it gives ATC a time estimate for the next position which also confirms that the aircraft is flying on the correct route, and a normal position report implies that nothing is wrong. An automated position report would take away the implied operations normal status (the aircraft could be cruising depressurised with all passengers and crew dead.) Any kind of automatic system would have to be in addition to a pilot initiated one.

I think you need to define what problem is supposed to be solved. A GPS position would've allowed AF447 to be found quicker, but the end result would've been the same, no one would've been saved. If there are survivors from a ditching at sea then there is GPS tracking technology in the emergency beacons on the life rafts. If the EPIRBS and ELT are not functioning then the chances are that neither are any of the passengers.

At the moment constant GPS position information is mainly useful because it can be cheaper to install and maintain compared to radar. Its primary purpose at this stage is to allow controllers to more closely separate aircraft and therefore allow more aircraft on a route covered by the system. Constant position information for the purpose of finding a downed aircraft if it happens to crash into the ocean would be nice to have but I think it comes way down the list of priorities compared to spending money on things that have a much more tangible benefit.
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  #15  
Old 09-23-2009, 05:48 PM
ElvisL1ves ElvisL1ves is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by BigT View Post
I'm confused on why it's so hard.
It isn't. It's about money. Airlines are inherently marginal financially, and won't spend money on equipment without either being required to or being convinced it's absolutely necessary.
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  #16  
Old 09-24-2009, 12:39 AM
GusNSpot GusNSpot is offline
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Quote:
The worry now days is that new private pilots are so reliant on their GPS that they are not acquiring good visual navigation and map reading skills.
Oh man, this is so true. When I talk to low time pilots and see how they do things, a lot of them scare me badly.....
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  #17  
Old 09-24-2009, 11:40 AM
Llama Llogophile Llama Llogophile is online now
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Quote:
Originally Posted by 1920s Style "Death Ray" View Post
The worry now days is that new private pilots are so reliant on their GPS that they are not acquiring good visual navigation and map reading skills.
The flip side of this issue is that many pilots have sophisticated GPS equipment in their aircraft that they don't know how to use effectively.

I'm a flight instructor, and I now spend a lot of my time instructing on GPS procedures. It's not such a big deal for visual flight, but in IFR it can get complicated.
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