AirAsia flight QZ8501: Missing plane did not have latest tracking technology

Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team prepare to set off to search for the missing plane from Manggar in East Belitung on Dec 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Members of an Indonesian search and rescue team prepare to set off to search for the missing plane from Manggar in East Belitung on Dec 30, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Although AirAsia's fleet of short-haul jets were already being upgraded with better tracking equipment, the missing flight QZ8501 had not yet been modified, it was reported.

AirAsia had earlier this year begun working with British satellite communications firm Inmarsat to deploy satellite communications on some of its Airbus A320s.

Inmarsat technology had previously aided in the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370. From data gathered by Inmarsat, authorities were able to find that MH370 flew for hours after the transponder was disabled and likely crashed in the Indian Ocean.

Inmarsat's vice-president of external affairs Chris McLaughlin, has since confirmed that the missing AirAsia flight was not outfitted with Inmarsat technology, according to reports by ABCnews.

The upgrades would have given the aircraft the ability to provide position updates every two minutes. Inmarsat provides access to the satellite network on which the tracking service runs.

Currently into its third day, the search for QZ8501 and its 162 passengers continues to expand. Indonesian officials have said four more areas will be added to the current seven sections being searched. This will include land areas such as Belitung island.

The US Navy has also joined the multination operation alongside Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. France and Australia have also dispatched aid.

melheng@sph.com.sg

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