Last year, on this day, the world’s first-ever, global emergency aircraft locating service went live as a public service. Aireon Aircraft Location and Emergency Response Tracking (ALERT), operated by the Irish Aviation Authority (IAA) began officially providing critical, on-demand data to aviation stakeholders across the world.
For the past year, Aireon ALERT has been assisting in search and rescue efforts all around the world. Since its launch, Aireon ALERT has 390 active registrants, made up of 147 airlines, 104 ANSPs, 67 regulators, 55 rescue organizations, and 17 others from across 119 countries. Aireon ALERT has processed 43 requests for data as of June 8th, 2020, several of which provided defining data in life and death situations. The service and quality of the data has been globally welcomed by rescue organizations and has been endorsed for use by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO).
To go back a bit, Aireon’s space-based ADS-B is helping organizations and agencies in ways beyond air traffic control separation services. Aireon’s data is available to ANSPs, commercial aircraft operations/airlines, regulators and search and rescue organizations to provide accurate and timely last-reported positions. Aireon ALERT is free and global and provides registered stakeholders, on request, the exact position data for an aircraft in distress or in an emergency situation anywhere in the world. For search and rescue (SAR) teams, minutes, even seconds, can mean the difference between success or failure. Aireon ALERT gives them the power to respond more quickly and effectively.
A notable save over this past year was in December 2019. Don Hinkel’s 1090 Cessna P210N engine failed mid-flight over Bahamian airspace. Terrestrial-based sources indicated his last known target at 1,300 feet, however, space-based data showed the last known position of the aircraft was more than two nautical miles away and had tracked the altitude down to sea-level, providing the U.S. Coast Guard the aircraft’s precise location. As a result, SAR was able to narrow their search parameters and find the pilot alive, treading water in the ocean without a life jacket, as the aircraft had sunk after ditching. After just three hours, the pilot was recovered alive, but exhausted, 55 meters from the position provided by Aireon ALERT.
Users of Aireon ALERT have had positive things to say after using the service. Some feedback that Aireon and the IAA have received from the operational SAR services:
- “Thank you for your assistance in the flight tracking of XXXXXX. This intel was invaluable as it provided an additional 4 minutes of tracking showing the aircraft basically onto the runway, including doing a downwind approach which was not shown in other intel feeds like Flight Radar 24 tracking stopped at 0358Z. The outcome of this incident was we had an ELT alert at time 0402Z, which coincided with the Aireon Alert data. The end results is the aircraft on landing has overrun the end of the runway into the river. The sole pilot was able to escape the cockpit and swim to shore.”
- “Yes, while we probably would have found the pilot without your data, it certainly made it easier and may have made the difference in saving a life as I don’t know what the water temperature was or how much longer the pilot could have treaded water without exhaustion and fatigue.”
The extraordinary accuracy of this data, coupled with its rate of delivery and immediate availability to the requesting party, makes it the most reliable emergency aircraft location service available. It is completely unique, and it is completely free. It can help requestors assess the veracity of emergency alerts, saving time and resources for responders and significantly reducing large historical search areas.
With just one year of operations, Aireon ALERT has already made a huge impact on the industry for the better. As it gains more traction, Aireon ALERT will continue to assist stakeholders identify and respond to issues for an aircraft in an uncertain phase or alert phase before it reaches a distress phase. If you are an ANSP, commercial aircraft operator/airline, regulator or search and rescue organization, visit www.AireonALERT.com to learn more and register for this free service!
Aireon and the IAA look forward to this long-term, continued partnership combining first-class data and user support to offer this critical, free public service. Cheers to years to come!