Airline tracking of their aircraft has historically been quite passive because they rely on the air navigation service providers (ANSPs) whose airspace they cross to have radar surveillance, and because in most of the world they don’t have access to the surveillance data held by ANSPs.
Also, while the US FAA requires airlines to have an aircraft tracking capability is not currently required by any country outside the US so it is up to the individual airlines to decide what capabilities they put in place.
In May of this year, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) held a special meeting on global flight tracking of aircraft. One result of this meeting was the encouragement of airlines to use existing equipment and procedures to support flight tracking.
Out of this, SITA’s AIRCOM Server Flight Tracker was born. Because it meets the requirement of using existing airline systems, it can be deployed very quickly at minimal cost compared to any systems that required new systems to go on the aircraft.
AIRCOM Server is SITA’s airline operations center system. It was developed originally to manage communications with the aircraft communications and reporting systems (ACARS) in aircraft. Over 80 airlines already have it in place of the 150 airlines, flying more than 10,000 aircraft, whose ACARS communications go through AIRCOM.
The AIRCOM Server itself offers a passive tracking capability but is being upgraded to offer active tracking filling in gaps where no position report data is transmitted via ACARS between the aircraft and air traffic control (ATC).
AIRCOM Server Flight Tracker will identify when ATC-generated messages stop and request reports proactively from the Future Air Navigation Systems (FANS) avionics.
The most interesting Aircraft Tracker capability will be the intelligence to identify planned aircraft movements to distinguish unplanned movements that require attention.
Learn more about flight tracking in my article in the latest issue of the Air Transport IT Review.