When news of the flights plight reached the world on March 8, 2014, many were surprised by the fact that a Boeing 777 could simply disappear. Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) (OTCMKTS:IMASY) is looking to solve that problem by offering carriers free tracking of their airliners.

Inmarsat Airline tracking

Airline tracking: Easily done

Presently, more than 9 out of 10 of the world’s long haul commercial fleet are equipped with a connection so the ease by which Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) (OTCMKTS:IMASY) can offer their services is mitigated considerably.

“Because of the universal nature of existing Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) (OTCMKTS:IMASY) aviation services, our proposals can be implemented right away on all ocean-going commercial aircraft using equipment that is already installed,” said Rupert Pearce, chief executive of Inmarsat.

Inmarsat’s offer, however, is only as good as a functioning system and won’t come to much if the aircraft communications addressing and reporting system (ACARS) is switched off as it was in the case of flight MH370. ACARS collects on-board data which includes heading and speed as well as altitude. Depending on the planes configuration, the switch to disable satellite tracking is located on the ceiling of the cockpit or behind the throttles.

Airline tracking turned off due to cost concern

The obvious question is certainly “Why would you have occasion to manually disengage ACARS?” Chief operating officer or Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) (OTCMKTS:IMASY) , Ruy Pinto explained recently that on occasions pilots could feel obligated to cycle the system down in the even of an onboard fire or if a plane was dangerously lacking power. Airlines have been reluctant in the past to track their flights by satellite due to cost concerns. Ships at sea over a certain weight are required by regulation to broadcast their positions via satellite periodically but no such similar regulations apply to aircraft. Given the lives at stake when it comes to commercial flights, this is expected to change following the loss of flight MH370.

Safety proposals Inmarsat Plc (LON:ISAT) (OTCMKTS:IMASY) told the BBC recently that the cost to the company will run around $3 million per year but the company is happy to offer the service nonetheless in the hope that companies will upgrade to some of Inmarsat’s premium offerings in gratitude(?). The announcement by the company came just prior to a conference being hosted by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in Montreal, Canada. Following the loss of flight MH370, the focus of the conference has shifted to aviation safety. In addition to Inmarsat’s offer the groups are considering measures that would mandate the “black box’s” power systems to work underwater for no fewer than 90 days as opposed to the current 30 days.