If data link updates were missed and radio contact could
not be met, Airways had no way of knowing where an aircraft
was. Photo / Richard Robinson
Thousands of flights each year in and out of New Zealand
fly through radar black spots relying only on scheduled
long-range radio calls to track their position.
A spokesman for Airways, which manages the country's 30
million sq km of airspace, said only 60 per cent of flights
were tracked to their final destination by satellite, the
rest relying on radio contact.
"It's either via radio or via what we call data link ...
through the satellites," head of Auckland operations Tim
Individual aircraft had to opt into the data-link system,
transmitting their location every 15 minutes.
However, "if the aircraft chooses not to effectively enter
into that contract then we don't actually get any data back
from Inmarsat [the UK satellite company] at all."
If data link updates were missed and radio contact could not
be met, Airways had no way of knowing where an aircraft was,
An aircraft leaving for Los Angeles would be tracked by radar
out to a 321km radius where it would then enter a black spot.
It would be picked up by radar around 240km from Fiji before
flying through another black spot until it reached US
A spokesman from Inmarsat said there was no mandate for
flights from NZ to transmit data.
Inmarsat senior vice-president of external affairs Chris
McLaughlin told Radio NZ yesterday that one of the company's
satellites had continued to pick up a series of hourly
"pings" from MH370's Classic Aero unit, establishing that it
flew for at least five hours after it had left Malaysian
The operator of the aircraft had not elected for it to
transmit location data, Mr McLaughlin said. "There's no,
believe it or not, mandate to do so, other than over the
North Atlantic route and so for many hours, planes flying
from New Zealand and Australia are not necessarily reporting
- Brendan Manning