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Missing Airbus puts focus on pilots training, flight tracking system

The disappearance of Indonesia AirAsia Airbus A320 plane has brought to focus pilot training and  aircraft communication  and flight tracking systems yet again.

The exact reasons for the disappearance of the Airbus A320 aircraft which was flying from Indonesia to Singapore are not yet known but initial reports say that the pilots had asked for a change in route because of adverse weather.

The region falls under the inter tropical convergence zone and is known for turbulent weather and thunder storms.

Pilots are advised to take precautions and avoid thunderstorms which is what the pilots of AirAsia Airbus A320 aircraft intended to do as per media reports.

Impacts of thunderstorms include  reduction of aircraft performance (sudden drop in speed) and also severe turbulence which can result  an aircraft to stall (loss of lift). 

Other possibilities include lightening induced electrical malfunction, icing on engines and wings or structural failures resulting from severe turbulence.

“Pilots in India are trained for stall recovery procedures and these are practiced in simulators. A thunderstorm tests a pilots abilities. In a simulator a pilot gets a second chance. In a real situations there is no action replay,” said a senior captain with a private airline.

The other aspect brought about by the missing  Airbus A320 plane  is the flight tracking and communication system.

Most new generation   planes are equipped with an  ACARS (Aircraft Communication Addressing and Reporting System) which sends messages about various  flight parameters including height, speed, engine performance and so on to airline engineering department through digital data link system. Airlines need to subscribe to data service in order to monitor the flight movements.

The other conventional systems for communication and tracking include VHF and HF radio and radars.

” Systems like ACARS are designed for monitoring aircraft health. These are currently not designed to prevent sabotage,” said an aviation source. 

Post MH-370 incident earlier this year the Directorate General of Civil Aviation directed all airlines in India to ensure that aircraft were equipped to communicate  with ACARS or  Automatic Dependent Surveillance – Broadcast (ADS-B), the latter is used mostly when flying over oceans.

Aviation sources say DGCA’s instructions to airlines on flight tracking post MH-370 incident  are largely advisory in nature adding that serviceability of ACARS or ADS-B equipment is not checked before each flight.

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