Why arent aircrafts equiped with real time tracking devices?

The AIrAsia flight 8501 (QZ8501) had vanished along its way from Indonesia to Singapore. On board there were registered 162 passengers and crew. No survivors at the plane`s crash site in the Java Sea.

Even though the plane was traced by radar and it vanished close to land, the search and rescue team needed more than two days to find the wreckage. So, with many vanished flights like Malaysia Airlines flight 370 or Air France flight 447, why do we still sense hesitation when it comes to set up a real time tracking device on airplanes?

AirAsia flight 8501 set off from Juanda International Airport in Indonesia at 5:35 am, western Indonesian time, UTC+7. At 6:12 am, the pilots decided that they need to ask for permission to climb to 38,000 feet in order to pass by a storm. The Air Traffic Control denied their request because of nearby traffic. After five minutes they lost radar contact and the plane`s ADS-B transponder signal was lost. So, until now we have no information about what happened and the most likely scenario is that the plane hit the storm.

Immediately after this, a search and rescue effort was established and put in motion. Two days after the plane`s disappearance, an Indonesian official announced that they had found 40 bodies from the coast of Borneo, which is near the last location of flight 8501. After this, AirAsia stated that the wreckage is from flight 8501.

How is it possible to lose a plane?

The main question when it comes to airplanes that get lost is how can it be possible or why does the rescue team take so much time to get together. Some may wonder if there would have been survivors if a search and rescue team was gathered within an hour. The most recurring question is why all the planes do not have yet real time tracking and why there is no real time video and audio feed from the cockpit.

The principal answer we get from the airlines is the fact that this type of tracking is expensive. It is not impossible to get real-time telemetry or a low-bitrate audio feed. The tricky part is it needs expensive new hardware which will include extra charges for the additional bandwidth provided by satellite companies. The main concern that comes with any industry that needs to spend money to achieve better security or safety is the fact that major companies have a strange mentality. Airlines can equip airplanes with expensive hardware, but they do not bother to do it unless they are forced by federal regulations. It is like you wait until you get hacked to encrypt your company’s data!

In this way, the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) has started to set up a mandate which will force the Airlines companies to establish real-time tracking on large passenger jets. But this will be a slow process because of the approvals needed and because of the fact that airlines will delay the installation to a number of years before actually following the new measure.