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Their official launch wasn’t planned for weeks, but Aireon, a McLean, Va.,-based company made headlines in March after it provided critical flight data to the Federal Aviation Administration that led to the agency’s decision to ground all Boeing 737 Max jets.
Current ground-based systems track aircraft, but offer coverage for only about 30 percent of the globe, leaving wide swaths of ocean and portions of some countries, uncovered. Aireon, however, is the first company to offer real-time tracking of aircraft operations around the world using a global network of satellites.
In the case of the Ethiopian Airlines flight that crashed in Addis Ababa on March 10, Aireon was able to give the FAA information about the plane’s position and trajectory. The FAA would have eventually been able to get the same details itself, but it would have had to wait until the plane’s data recorders had been recovered and analyzed.