One would think in this day and age of high tech gadgets, that it would be a simple matter to locate a down jet in the Atlantic ocean. But the recent crash of Air France Flight 447 with 228 souls aboard shows the limits of what technology can do. As I watched the news reports of the missing flight I couldn’t understand how it could be difficult to locate the wreckage. With GPS and all of the tracking abilities we have, could a jetliner really take so long to find?

One can look back to the sinking of the Titanic back in 1912. The ship was located at a time when the only means of communication was the Marconi wireless system and navigational plotting. Now some 100 years later, with computers running the world, with satellites soaring overhead and Billions spent on technology, are we any better off?

According to an article at SF Gate it describes the problems:

Analysts were scrambling to figure out exactly what kind of satellite-enabled communication systems the plane was equipped with. Using the latest gear, airplanes can automatically transmit information such as the plane’s position, altitude, heading and speed. But not all airplanes flying across oceans are equipped with such technology.

Some experts say that given the vastness of the ocean, the crash site might never be pinpointed.

That could prove a major headache for safety investigators who place a high priority on finding the plane’s black box data and voice recorders. Typically, the black boxes have tracking beacons that activate when the boxes get wet. The radio signal works for about 30 days. Search teams will have to be within 4,000 to 5,000 feet of the black box location to pick up the signals.

Investigators from around the world will want to know precisely what went wrong on the flight. The A330-200 is a common jet in the industry. It specializes in international flying, especially transatlantic routes. Analysts say A330 planes have had an unquestioned safety record. Northwest, which recently merged with Delta Air Lines, has 11 A330-200 planes and 21 of the larger A330-300 models. US Airways has nine A330-300s, according to Airbus.

I am sure these and other questions are going to be asked in the coming weeks and months as the investigation proceeds. But one thing we do know. Technology did not help much in locating the wreckage quickly.

What do you think?

Comments welcome.

Source SF Gate