Friday, February 20, 2015

Congressman Mica calls for satellite tracking of commercial jets

ORLANDO --   Last year the world watched as we heard a commercial jet “disappeared” from radar.

Hundreds of passengers on board vanished.

Congressman John Mica, R-Winter Park, a senior member of the House Transportation Committee, would like to see satellite tracking instead of radar, providing better communication with aircraft.

“We saw with the Malaysia air flight that we still haven’t located that every aircraft that flies in the world that carries passengers should have the capability of being tracked,” Mica said.

The technology does exist, but it could also be costly. Then again, so can searching for missing flights.

“Obviously like with Malaysia, when they go down in the ocean and how many millions of dollars have they spent looking for that?” said Professor Marty Lauth with Embry-Riddle University.

John Mica said he’s in talks with the International Civil Aviation Organization, a United Nations agency, to create an international standard for commercial jets.

Experts from Embry Riddle University said it’s a big deal.

“We’re moving towards it, I mean, over the Atlantic Ocean obviously between the United States they are trying to get satellite tracking there so they can remove separation,” Lauth said.

Professor Lauth, who spent decades in air traffic control, said it could take 10 to 15 years to get jets equipped with what they’d need for next generation tracking. But Mica is afraid we’re behind the times.

“We’re falling further behind in the U.S. in next generation air traffic control and air management. We’ve just not done that," Mica said. "I’m going to propose in Congress that it be privatized that we create an employee stock ownership.”

Tracking is not so much a problem within the United States, experts say, but rather for other parts of the world and international flights.

“There’s a considerable amount of expense involved in that and certainly the airlines don’t necessarily see a return on their investment,” Lauth said.

Regardless Mica said he plans to push for this policy with flight tracking leaders and experts this month, something that could globally change the way flights like yours are tracked.

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