Satellite operator Inmarsat is to offer a free, basic tracking service for almost all of the world's passenger jets after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370, the company said Monday.
The U.K.-based firm made the offer ahead of an airline industry summit that will discuss how to better monitor planes after the Boeing 777 vanished on March 8 – so far without trace.
Inmarsat said it would offer the service– currently available at a fee - free of charge to airlines. Cost is one of the reasons often cited for the reluctance of airlines to use satellite tracking.
The service would be available to all airliners fitted with satellite communications equipment that was capable of being monitored by Immarsat’s satellites – “virtually 100 percent of the world’s long haul commercial fleet,” it said.
“In the wake of the loss of MH370, we believe this is simply the right thing to do,” the company’s chief executive Rupert Pearce said in a statement.
Immarsat also announced it would offer a “black box in the cloud” tracking service - triggered by exceptional events “such as an unapproved course deviation” – that would give instant access to vital flight and cockpit data.
That innovation, which would speed up the process of finding wreckage and identifying possible causes of air accidents, would not be free of charge.
Calculations by Immarsat were used by investigators to narrow down the search corridor for MH370, with efforts now focused on the southern end of the Indian Ocean, west of Australia.