What GAO Found
The crash of Air France Flight 447 (AF447) off the coast of Brazil in June 2009 and the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 (MH370) in the southern Indian Ocean in March 2014 highlight several challenges authorities may face in locating (search and recovery) aircraft in distress and recovering flight recorders. First, oceanic surveillance is limited, and an aircraft’s position may not be precisely known. For example, MH370 continued to fly for several hours outside of radar coverage after onboard communications equipment were no longer working, according to investigators. Additionally, communication and coordination between air traffic control centers in oceanic regions pose challenges. Finally, these accidents show tEnhancehat investigators may have difficulty locating and recovering flight recorders, which are used to determine accident causes, because of the ocean’s depth and terrain. For instance, locating AF447’s flight recorders took 2 years at a cost of approximately $40 million.
Proposals to enhance aircraft tracking: