MIAMI – The US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) is tracking every flying Boeing 737 MAX globally using a technology that transmits aircraft’s vital data via satellite.

The goal of the FAA is to assess the performance of the MAX fleet as the jet returns to service. According to The Seatle Times, the system “will flag deviations from certain parameters during all phases of flight and alert the FAA’s aviation safety division,” the federal agency said. “Safety engineers and inspectors will use the early notification to further analyze the incident.”

American Airlines Boeing 737 MAX. Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Why Satellite Tracking


Boeing 737 MAX had two crashes that killed 346 passengers and grounded the B737 MAX fleet for 20 months globally. However, as the Jet returns to the sky, even minor problems are likely to plunge the interest and increase the anxiety of air travelers.

That is to say, many authorities are lifting the flight ban of Boeing 737 MAX, and airlines are gearing up for its return. Most recently the TUI Airways (BY) became the first European operator to conduct Boeing 737 MAX after its global grounding.

The FAA uses the data to precisely monitor the efficiency of the MAXs and to identify any issues at an early stage. Besides, this is the first time that the FAA carries out such a real-time analysis of a single aircraft type. Therefore, FAA contracted McLean Aireon, a Virginia-based tech company, to use a technology called Automated Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast (ADS-B).

While Boeing 737 MAXs are in flight, they broadcasting valuable statistics every half a second to the FAA Technical Center near Atlantic City, New Jersey.

Flair C-FFLJ Boeing 737-86J(WL). Photo: Max Langley/Airways

Satellite Tracking

ADS-B is a more reliable tracking device than the current radar system and therefore transmits further data. Current radar, cannot detect aircraft’s position, well above the seas, both earth’s poles, distant mountains, or forest. However, Aireon’s satellite coverages are the globe.

Every modern Boeing or Airbus jet favors an ADS-B system and constantly transmits its accurate GPS location. Moreover, it transmits its trajectory, ground speed, height, and rate of climb or descent. Additionally, ADS-B transmits an emergency signal from every defective aircraft system. Similarly to Traffic Collision Avoidance System (TCAS) warning flag code.

Any aircraft having ADS-B, in the case of falling can transmit the precise positions of the crash site. Although in March 2014 a Malaysian Airlines’ (MH) Boeing 777 was missing and 239 passengers were on board, the facilities like ADS-B to find the plane was not in service in the country. Therefore, the aircraft lost somewhere in the vast southern Indian Ocean.

FAA extended a tracking deal with the firm following a 10-week initial trial. Based on the deal, Aireon shall provide regular health monitoring updates on all flights from the previous day. Also, It records the frequency of Take-off and Landing of each MAX jet. Moreover, the firm records all flight duration as well as any irregularities for each particular MAX jet.

United Airlines Boeing 737MAX Photo: Brandon Farris/AW

Future of Airspace Management


Airon wants to eventually replace the current air traffic control systems in the world with more reliable and global coverage of the ADS-B system. Therefore, most of the world’s pioneering air navigations services, such as Canada, the UK, Ireland, and Italy, are now investing in Aireon’s desire. Moreover, Its cooperation with these authorities has led to reducing the vertical separation between flights passing above North Atlantic.

The Canadian and British air traffic controllers are willing to eliminate the current tracking system for the ocean-wide routing of aircraft. The actively trails the ADS-B system that track each aircraft individually

The FAA has not yet actively engaged in Aireon’s activities. However, reported in November that a strategic partnership will give it direct access to real-time air traffic data from Aireon. Therefore, it can evaluate other applications of the ADS-B like the automation of air traffic control and air safety management services, and accident investigations.

Per The Seattle Times, the live monitoring of MAX , an off-shoot of this relationship, would include a wealth of regular operations data and flag anything out of the ordinary.


Featured image: Boeing’s new 737 MAX 9. Photo: Paul Weatherman photo. (PRNewsfoto/Boeing)

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