It’s now been almost two weeks since Malaysian Airlines Flight 370 disappeared en-route from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, but the plance and its 239 passengers may have been found long before had Malaysia Airlines purchased a $10 upgrade.
Where Flight 370’s traditional Aircraft Communications Addressing and Reporting System and location transponder tracking failed, a real-time aircraft-data streaming system called Swift 64 could have continued to track the wayward Boeing 777. The system transmits location data to satellites independently and includes fuel use, speed, engine status, altitude and direction.
A basic install of Swift 64 was embedded on the plane, but not the $10-per-flight upgraded version that would have tracked the necessary information at regular intervals, The Washington Post reports.
Similar programs like the one aboard an Air France jet that crashed in the Atlantic Ocean in 2009 gave search teams more information to go on, and helped narrow the search area to a radius of about 40 miles, while the search for Flight 370 now stretches some 2.24 million nautical miles.
Companies are legally required to install Swift 64 on airlines traversing North American and European airspace. But Malaysia Airlines did not have to obey this requirement.
While the basic program has aided the search effort after it pinged satellites for every hour of flight time after the jet’s other systems went dark, the full version would have recorded the precise GPS coordinates of every ping, which is how search teams found Air France flight 447 in 2009 after it vanished over the Atlantic Ocean.