Losing your cell phone is one thing, but losing an entire plane along with its 239 passengers and crew is a completely different story. Many are asking, “How can we as such a technologically advanced society lose an entire plane for more than three weeks?”

I am starting to think our society is not as technologically advanced as many believe it to be.

Our world seems to have a long way to go if we are able to go over three weeks without a single reliable source of evidence of Flight 370’s location.

This mystery is teaching the public about the limitations of technology. I believe the case of Flight 370 may even result in the reform of flight technology altogether.

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

Betsy Thompson / Equinox Staff

However, there is always human interaction which has the ability to influence technology and how it is used.

Many plane flyers are under the impression that their plane is being continuously tracked throughout its flight, but this is a common misconception that is coming to light as a result of Flight 370.

Flight 370 took off from Malaysia on its way to Beijing, China on March 8, 2014, when it went missing, according to ABC News. So far, experts have narrowed the search for the plane to a southern stretch of the Indian Ocean the size of Poland, 1,150 miles West of Australia.

According to MSN News, Flight 370 automatically sent a satellite signal every hour. Fortunately, this signal was able to continue even after someone on the plane shut off the transponder, which is a device in the cockpit that sends signals to radar stations below.

These signals include the plane’s flight number, heading, speed and altitude according to AP Airlines Writer Scott Mayerowitz. The transponder also has the ability to send predetermined signals for emergencies.

Flight 370 took off from Malaysia at 12:40 a.m. and the transponder stopped transmitting signals at 1:20 a.m., according to ABC News. Although the transponder was turned off, the plane continued to fly for several hours.

According to the Washington Post, the transponder and other communication systems were either intentionally turned off or somehow disabled.

The problem with technology is it must be supported by a human being, and if that human being decides to turn off the technology that is protecting and monitoring them, there is not much the technology can do.

Radar is another communication system. It involves an antenna on the ground which sends out electromagnetic waves traveling at the speed of light. Radar, however, can only track planes within 200 to 250 miles but because of its constant speed, the distance of a plane from the antenna can be determined.

Radar for a flight with no transponder signals and infrequent radar signals was detected at 2:14 a.m March 8. This plane, however, was following a path in the complete opposite direction of Flight 370’s original route, reported by ABC News.

A disadvantage of radar is that it does not exist everywhere. When a plane enters an area with low radar, the pilot usually communicates its location in other ways such as high frequency radios and satellite text.

All of these communication devices show how essential human interaction with technology is but when a human is unable to operate the technology or refuses to, the technology is extremely limited.

The passengers of any plane put their complete trust in the pilots, crew and the other passengers and even the technology and the plane itself that their flight will be a safe one. It appears the reform of flight technology will most likely occur in regards to satellite tracking.

However, this reform is only possible at a cost.

A triggered transmission system would be completely separate from the transponder. Its job would be to notify the people on land monitoring the flight when the plane dives too quickly, goes too fast, or goes too slow.

This technology costs about $50,000 per aircraft according to Stephen Trimble, bureau chief of U.K. aviation news website, Flightglobal, as found on ABC News. Jon M. Chang of ABC News found that American Airlines has about 900 planes.

This means they would have to pay almost $50 million to adopt this technology.

As shown in the case of Flight 370, when a plane’s transponder is turned off, it essentially becomes invisible.

This is where tracking technology could make a difference. If we had technology like this on every plane, 9/11 might have been a little different, for example.

At this point, there is no solid evidence about what happened to Flight 370, but if the airlines had the tracking technology, we might have more answers to this mystery by now, along with more of a clue where to begin the search for Flight 370 and its 293 passengers and crew.

As stated by the Washington Post, “There is no evidence of pilot error, pilot suicide, hijacking or any kind of terrorist event, nor is there evidence of a mechanical malfunction, fire or decompression. There is, in essence, no evidence of anything other than that the aircraft did not go to China as planned but rather flew in a zigzag fashion into the southern Indian Ocean.”


Taylor Howe can be contacted at thowe@keene-equinox.com

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