My Thoughts on Flight 17 and Aviation Tracking in General

I do not nor­mal­ly update these, but being in the avi­a­tion indus­try myself, I just can’t help read­ing at how mis­in­formed some peo­ple can be.

I read about peo­ple blam­ing MAS for tak­ing that route, to cut cost and save time.

I read about peo­ple blam­ing say­ing that the plane were fly­ing over restrict­ed airspace.

I read about peo­ple blam­ing the pilots for fly­ing over trou­bled areas.

Do you have the faintest idea how avi­a­tion track­ing works?

Here’s a clue. Pilots rely on ground con­trollers to give them direc­tions, which means the head­ing and the alti­tude which the pilots then turn knobs on the flight pan­els and auto pilot trims it and fly. Pilots only con­trol the plane on the stick dur­ing land­ing and take offs.

Sounds con­tra­dict­ing with what you watch in the movies? Yes, because that is a movie, it’s Hollywood.

Does pilot have a say as to where they want to fly, or how high they want to fly? No. Local author­i­ties, in this case, the Ukraine Air Traf­fic Con­troller gave them the head­ing and the alti­tude of 330. Sin­ga­pore Air­lines were less than 50 km behind Flight 17, on the exact same route at 310.

Were they fly­ing in restrict­ed air­space? NoTAM did not have any indi­ca­tions of that alti­tude being restrict­ed. That restric­tion were only in place after the shoot­ing of Flight 17.

Flight plan­ning requires the involve­ment if mul­ti­ple par­ties, includ­ing for­eign author­i­ty. One could not change flight routes with­out flight plan­ning offi­cers, involve­ment of local and for­eign avi­a­tion authorities.

Air Traf­fic Con­trol will have to direct the air­craft over and around restrict­ed air­space by giv­ing the pilots head­ings and alti­tude. In fact, why no one point­ing fin­gers at Ukraine avi­a­tion author­i­ty, yet?

When Flight 370 went miss­ing from the radar, every­one was ques­tion­ing why is Sub­ang the one respond­ing, and not KLIA. KLIA is the con­trol tow­er, they are only con­trol­ling who is land­ing and who is tak­ing off. These usu­al­ly hap­pens when the air­craft is a few hun­dred feet from the ground.

Once the air­craft is at cruis­ing alti­tude, the Area Con­trol Cen­ter (ACC) takes over giv­ing them the head­ing and alti­tude. As soon as the air­craft enters for­eign air­space, the for­eign ACC takes over and this hap­pens sev­er­al times dur­ing flights that past through mul­ti­ple countries.

The ACC uses radar to track air­craft with­in the area, and sep­a­rates them to a safe dis­tance and alti­tude. Pilots can­not change flight path once en route with­out author­i­ty of the traf­fic con­trol in the coun­tries being over­flown. Flight paths are also planned near to air­ports and min­i­mal time over ocean in case of emergency.

Over the ocean, there is no radar track­ing. Pilots are only fly­ing based on GPS nav­i­ga­tion. When air­craft enters a coun­try’s air­space, that is when the ACC will notice if the plane is miss­ing if there were no calls. Radio trans­mis­sion have a dis­tance too.

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