Missing Malaysian flight MH370: Satellite tracking company Inmarsat offers to track all large passenger planes – for free

Offer comes as airlines scramble to prevent situation like loss of Malaysia Airlines flight ever happening again

The British satellite company that helped track the missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 has offered to provide a free, global service keeping tabs on all of the world’s large passenger planes.

Inmarsat, whose data on brief electronic “pings” from the lost Boeing 777 allowed investigators to track it to their current search area within the southern Indian Ocean, said it could offer an “immediate fix” to prevent a similar situation occurring again.

The routine use of satellite tracking has been resisted by commercial airlines because of the cost involved, but pressure to come up with a viable solution has grown since the disappearance of MH370 on 8 March.

Though it is based in the UK, Inmarsat’s tracking technology across aircraft all over the world, and is also used by ships making distress calls in the maritime sector.

The company’s senior vice-president Chris McLaughlin told BBC News: “Our equipment is on 90 per cent of the world's wide-body jets already. This is an immediate fix for the industry at no cost to the industry.”

The announcement has been made ahead of a conference of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) being held in Montreal today, where unsurprisingly discussions surrounding the loss of MH370 have been made a priority.

Rupert Pearce, chief executive of Inmarsat, said: “We welcome and strongly support ICAO's decision to place the delivery of next-generation aviation safety services at the heart of the industry's agenda at its meeting on 12 May.

“Inmarsat has been providing global aviation safety services for over 20 years and we are confident that the proposals we have presented to ICAO and IATA (International Air Transport Association) represent a major contribution to enhancing aviation safety services on a global basis.

“In the wake of the loss of MH370, we believe this is simply the right thing to do.

“Because of the universal nature of existing Inmarsat aviation services, our proposals can be implemented right away on all ocean-going commercial aircraft using equipment that is already installed.”

Inmarsat was set up 35 years ago as a not-for-profit organisation to provide communications for shipping, and has since become one of the world’s largest satellite operators.

Employing a technique described by the Malaysian prime minister Najib Razak as never having been used before, the company had established within four days of the disappearance of MH370 that it had travelled along one of two vast arcs heading north across southern and central Asia or south across a vast expanse of ocean.

Further analysis of the data allowed experts to establish where the flight might have finally come to an end, within a margin of error of around 100 miles.

The company said that it would have been able to pinpoint the last location of the plane to within a handful of metres, were it not for the fact that the satellite receiving MH370’s pings was a 1990s model and not fitted with the latest GPS capability.

Dr Simon Boxall, an oceanographer with Southampton University, then told BBC News: “They’ve probably crammed a year’s worth of research into maybe a couple of weeks… Technologically it’s really quite astounding.”

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